Wednesday, December 8, 2010

cambodai new

Phnom Penh, 8 December 2010

For immediate release

CCHR Commends RGC on Steps Towards Freedom of Information Act

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) commends the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) for recent efforts in promoting the right to freedom of information for its citizens. CCHR acknowledges the positive step taken by sixty members of the Cambodian parliament for the process of drafting a law on freedom of information through their participation in a workshop in Phnom Penh entitled “Access to Information and the Cambodian Parliament”, organised by the Advocacy and Policy Institute. This is a promising move towards the adoption of freedom of information legislation, which in turn would be significant for the promotion of transparency and democracy in Cambodia.

Freedom of information forms the foundation of a healthy democracy. In order for effective democratic participation to be possible, citizens must have access to public information. Citizens must have the opportunity to review laws and government policies in order to make an informed decision when it comes to elections, or in order to stage protest where a government is not fulfilling its role. In the context of Cambodia, a country transitioning to democracy, freedom of information and a culture of transparency are paramount.

The RGC has taken some positive steps in promoting freedom of information. In 2007, a draft freedom of information policy paper was completed, which was to serve as a blueprint for a potential law. The policy paper has yet to be sent to the Council of Ministers for review, though the Minister for Information, Khieu Kanharith, has expressed hope that it will be sent soon. CCHR would like to encourage more positive action for the adoption of freedom of information legislation.

Media censorship has been an issue in Cambodia, as has the undisclosed allocation of business deals to company’s that are affiliated with the government, which often result in mass evictions, the over exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the environment. A law on freedom of information should therefore require that media professionals and whistleblowers are protected from reproach, that business carried out between government officials and private companies is made public, and that legal information is disseminated so that Cambodian citizens are aware of their rights and possible legal remedies for any encroachment of these rights. The eventual law should be clear and unambiguous and any laws in existence that appear to be in contradiction with freedom of information should be amended accordingly. CCHR endorses the model freedom of information law proposed by international NGO ARTICLE 19: “An Act to promote maximum disclosure of information in the public interest, to guarantee the right of everyone to access information, and to provide for effective mechanisms to secure that right.” It is equally important that once a law is implemented, that it is regularly reviewed and that the situation of freedom of information is monitored.

In light of the above CCHR once again commends the government on recent progress towards the embracing of a freedom of information regime and encourages the continuation of such progress in cooperation with civil society and other interested parties.

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