Let Us Do Our Job in Red Zones, Say Journalists

Photo was taken on April 27 shows police stand guard at a check point in Meanchey District. Photo: Ou Sokmean.
  • Phoung Vantha
  • May 7, 2021 8:21 AM

Information Ministry insists on sticking to the rules

PHNOM PENH--Organizations representing Cambodian and foreign journalists have urged the government to give them access to Red Zones for the essential work of keeping the public informed.

They said all journalists who adhere to health precautions, professional principles and ethical standards should be allowed to report from Red and Orange Zones.

However, the Information Ministry urged all journalists to follow the instructions of the authorities in implementing measures needed to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the community. 

The journalists’ call came from the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance, the International Federation of Journalists and the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia on May 6.

"We urge the Ministry of Information to allow independent Cambodian and foreign reporters to continue playing this vital role," they said.

A number of independent journalists had shown that they were prepared to take seriously the risks and necessary precautions to enter Red Zones in a way that keeps themselves and the public safe.

Their ability to move freely into these areas was essential to their work of keeping the public informed.

"The recent revocation of journalists’ access to Red Zones, however, has restricted the rights of the press to report freely and fairly," they said.

However, a ministry spokesman said all journalists should strictly respect and contribute to the relevant authorities as well as the ministry and the government to prevent the spread of the virus for the benefit of families and the community.

Introduction of necessary measures by the government and other authorities to protect the health and the interests of the people and of the nation as a whole was not a ban on freedoms, as this small group claimed.

The ministry said some journalists were broadcasting in the Red Zones and in restricted areas such as Covid-19  healthcare facilities.

They were also ambulance-chasing live on social media with comments on health-related and technical incidents. Some journalists were drawing conclusions and evaluating issues without a clear basis.

This misled the public, caused social unrest and increased the risk of Covid-19 spreading.

"I would like to encourage and call on all journalists to respect the implementation of the necessary measures of the Royal Government as well as the competent authorities for the common benefit of the people as well as the interests of our entire society," he said.

Nop Vy, executive director at Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), said there was no need for the ministry to issue that instruction because the government had already taken strict measures by not letting journalists into lockdown areas without a letter of permission from the ministry.

Vy said the broadcasting issue was related to the ethics of journalists. It was necessary to provide further education to journalists who did not know enough about the subject. The ministry should be reminded about journalists' ethics.

Vy said it was a threat to journalists when the ministry said they would be legally liable in the case of violations. This made journalists fear that the rights and freedoms of the press were being violated.

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