Cambodia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Cambodia

Cambodia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

61

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

Although local journalists generally see the government as being relatively tolerant of the media when compared with Cambodia's neighbors, restrictive legislation and a highly politicized media environment continue to hamper the Cambodian press. The constitution guarantees the right to free expression and a free press, and while the 1995 Press Law also theoretically protects press freedom, the government has used it to censor stories deemed to undermine political stability. Under Article 12, the employer, editor, or author of an article may be subject to a fine of 5 million to 15 million riels (US$1,282 to US$ 3,846). The law also gives the Ministries of Information and the Interior the right to confiscate or suspend a publication for 30 days and transfer the case to court. Article 13 states that the press shall not publish or reproduce false information that humiliates or is in contempt of national institutions. A continuing concern is the number of defamation cases filed during the year against journalists. On August 31, the Supreme Court upheld a guilty verdict against Cambodian Daily reporter Kay Kimsong, charging him for writing a "defamatory" article about Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong. In October, Prime Minister Hun Sen filed defamation charges against radio journalist Mam Sonando and seven human rights activists who criticized him for signing a special border treaty with Vietnam. Other journalists had fled the country for fear of being charged.

Although the threat of arrest has reportedly led to a slight increase in self-censorship, press coverage in Cambodia remains vigorous, and journalists regularly expose official corruption and scrutinize the government. However, on several occasions during the year, the government attempted to fetter journalistic coverage and access. In October, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, authorities imposed restrictions on reporters' ability to cover news from law courts in the capital, Phnom Penh. On November 23, the Ministry of Information ordered all radio and television stations to cease reading and editorializing the contents of newspapers over the air. The ministry said the commentaries were "in addition to the contexts of those stories, contrasting the ethical code of the journalistic profession and affecting Khmer tradition and social order." Journalists remain subject to some intimidation and harassment at the hands of authorities, and reporters in the provinces, particularly those who cover issues like illegal logging, face additional dangers such as physical attacks; several instances of assault were noted during 2005.  

Journalists from more than 20 publications aligned with or subsidized by various political factions are unbridled in criticizing their adversaries and public officials but generally do not criticize the king. The ruling Cambodian People's Party, its coalition partner the Royalist Party (Funcinpec), and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party each has its own newspaper. However, the government dominates both radio and TV, the main media sources for the two-thirds of the population that are functionally illiterate, and broadcast programming generally reflects official viewpoints. Independent broadcast outlets' operations are constrained by the refusal to allocate radio and television frequencies to stations that are aligned with the opposition. In addition, the economy is not strong enough to generate sufficient advertising revenues to support truly neutral or independent media. Access to foreign broadcasts and to the internet is generally unrestricted.