Prosecutors, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Information, and media professionals discuss the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists in Cambodia
To commemorate the 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNESCO convened a dialogue between the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information with journalists to discuss how to end impunity for crimes against journalists in Cambodia and strengthen safety of journalists. At the meeting, which was held on the 29th of November in Phnom Penh, UNESCO launched the Khmer language version of the “Guidelines for prosecutors on cases of crimes against journalists” produced in collaboration with the International Association of Prosecutors (IPA).
Representatives of the Ministry of Interior at the meeting
The meeting included an interactive session on the guidelines by its author, Sabin Ouellet, former president of the International Association of Francophone Prosecutors (AIPPF) and Senator to the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP). In his presentation, Mr Ouellet, highlighted the critical role prosecutors play in protecting freedom of expression and promoting access to information. He said that “everyone should be equal before the law; which is a founding principle of the construction of the rule of law. This is what we are aiming at prosecutors, protect the liberties of all citizens, the victims as well as the accused person, at all stages of our work”. He added that the duty of prosecutors is “to make sure that the proceedings are conducted in a manner in which freedoms and rights are fully respected”.
Following the presentation of the guidelines, journalists, prosecutors and representatives from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information engaged in a discussion on how to strengthen collaboration to address the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists and the establishment of safety mechanisms for reporters, to ensure that freedom of expression and access to information are protected in Cambodia. During the roundtable discussion, stakeholders identified key areas that need further attention and collaboration, including targeted capacity building on freedom of expression issues for relevant government officials, more dialogues between reporters and authorities at the local level, better communication between media and security forces and training of journalists on legislation and journalism ethics.
A prosecutor during the meeting. A journalist asks a question during the event.
According to the Global Report: World trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, recently published by UNESCO, Impunity in cases of crimes against journalists continue to be an issue of concern, impacting severely on Freedom of Expression and the right to people to access information. The Country Representative of UNESCO to Cambodia, Sardar Umar Alam, said that “States have an obligation to protect journalists and to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes against them are punished. Judges and prosecutors in particular have an important role to play in promoting swift and effective criminal proceedings”. Mr. Alam added that “UNESCO is ready to provide support and continue working with journalists and Ministries of Justice, Interior and Information, in building an environment where journalists feel safe to do their job”.
This initiative is part of UNESCO’s project “Strengthening Media Development and Freedom of Expression in Cambodia”, which is being implemented in collaboration with OHCHR and support from Sweden. Camilla Ottosson, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden Section Office in Phnom Penh, joined the launching of the guidelines, and in her remarks reminded all participants that when talking about the safety of journalists, special attention needs to be devoted to women journalists. Referring to a recent UNESCO report, Ms Ottoson added that “73% of women journalists experience online violence”.