By Soy Sophea
Members of the Cambodian press, celebrating World Press Freedom Day, May 5, urged all involved parties to ease access to information to help them bring the facts and informed points of view to the public’s attention.
Oum Sarin, President of the Cambodia Press Council, said during World Press Day celebrations held at Phnom Penh Hotel that it was vital for journalists to access all kinds of information, for they served an important role in promoting the nation’s interests.
“Clearly, development and decision-making is dependant on information and Cambodians must be made familiar with this information in an unbiased and timely manner,” Sarin said. “Otherwise, the wrong decisions are likely to be made; when this happens, the situation becomes uncertain and uncertainty breeds crisis.”
This year, World Press Freedom Day was celebrated under the banner “Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Empowerment of People.” The title was proposed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said that his members have done much to bring real information to the public. However, he added that the access to information in Cambodia was still limited.
The UNESCO Secretary General, Koichiro Matsuura also said that press freedom and access to information feed into wider development objectives by giving people the information that can help them gain control over their own lives.
“This empowerment supports participatory democracy by giving citizens the capacity to engage in public debate and to hold governments and others accountable,” Koichiro said. “But this flow of communication does not happen automatically.”
Thieng Vandarong, Undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Information, recognized that press freedom in Cambodia was getting better compared to other countries in the region.
According to the Reporters Without Borders Organization, based in Paris, Cambodia ranked 85 in the world in 2007 while Freedom House listed Cambodia in 26th place out of 40 countries in the Asia Pacific region in 2007.