20.05.2013 -

Celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media

@UNESCO/Chanthul Suos - Mrs. Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative, gives an opening remark at the World Press Fredom Day 2013 event.

World Press Freedom Day marks and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. 3 May was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day at the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. It is a day to encourage and develop initiatives in favor of press freedom, to assess the state of press freedom worldwide, and to remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to freedom of expression.

In Cambodia, World Press Freedom Day 2013 was celebrated by the UNESCO Phnom Penh Office and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with Konrad Adenaur Stiftung (KAS) Foundation, Cambodian Communication Institute (CCI), Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ), and the Department of Media and Communication (DMC) at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. This year’s WPFD was celebrated under the theme of Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media. The Minister of Information, H.E. Mr. Khieu Kanharith, Mr. Pen Samitthy, President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, Mr. James Heenan, Representative of the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ms. Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative in Cambodia presided over the opening ceremony.  

Session 1 of the Day brought in perspectives from Cambodian media professionals both in print and audiovisual media. Directors, editors-in-chief, journalists, and human rights advocates working in the media sector of Cambodia discussed the challenges they faced, and offered recommendations on how the government, international organizations, civil society, the media and other private sector actors could ensure Cambodian journalists’ safety. It was agreed that Cambodian journalists work under difficult conditions with low salaries, lack of access to information, and limited journalism training. Because of these limitations and difficult working conditions, access to accurate information, neutrality, professionalism and high ethical standards can act as defense against the challenges that journalists face in Cambodia.  Mr. Kevin Doyle, Editor-in-Chief of the Cambodia Daily, pointed out that journalists have a responsibility to uphold the basic principles of their professions such as integrity, fairness and neutrality, as those very prin could act as a buffer against protecting the journalists’ safety. Session 2 sought solutions and brought into light the legal and regulatory frameworks in Cambodia relating to media professionals. The discussions revolved around whether the existing legislation and regulations were effective and sufficient tools to protect journalists in the country. The panelists for this session were in consensus that there is a need to review and examine restrictive legislation with vague provisions on defamation, disinformation, and incitement.

Ms. Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative in Cambodia underscored the importance of working towards an Access to Information Law in the country to support journalists’ work and also their safety: Without an Access to Information Law, many journalists find it frustrating to obtain official information, and they are left vulnerable to legal attacks for inaccurate reporting. In this regard, UNESCO is collaborating with the Embassy of Sweden, Advocacy Policy Institute, and the Cambodian Center for Independent Media to work towards assisting relevant Cambodian ministries to draft an international standard Access to Information Law.”

For more information, please contact Ms. Jamie Lee, UNESCO Communication and Information Focal Point at hj.lee(at)unesco.org

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