Cambodia: Hun Sen government bans journalists’ access

Reporters from two news outlets, VOD and VOA, were denied access to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s press conference following the ASEAN Summit on November 13. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CamboJA), in condemning the incident and urging the government to ensure press freedom and fair access to all journalists is upheld.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) speaks during a press conference at the conclusion of the 40th and 41st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summits in Phnom Penh on November 13, 2022. Credit : Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP

Following the ASEAN Summit on November 10-13, Prime Minister Hun Sen invited foreign and local reporters for a two-hour press conference at the Peace Palace. Journalists from VOD and VOA were carrying press identification cases issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Information, had received attendance passes and were among the first 10 media organisations to register.

However, before distributing the passes to registered media, two members of the Ministry of Information’s press staff told a VOD journalist that their supervisor would not allow VOD and VOA journalists to attend the press conference with Hun Sen.

The journalist requested a reason for the denial of access but was not provided with one, despite contacting a senior ministry official to inquire. VOA journalists approached the summit’s media centre to request their passes and were rejected.

Information Ministry spokesperson, Meas Sophoan, said that reporters from the two news outlets ‘never attend’ these press conferences, and alleged they “cut only a few points” from conference speeches to publish.

Journalists in Cambodia continue to face challenges when reporting, including barriers to access when covering public officials’ events, and legal threats for criticism of the ruling government.

CamboJA said: “We call on the ministry to explain this apparent discrimination against journalists from certain news outlets. However, we see no justifiable reason for denying any professional journalists the opportunity to openly access public officials and institutions, and report news in the public interest. Since the prime minister welcomed questions from the media, we would like to know why journalists from VOD and VOA were not welcome to ask a question.”

The IFJ said: “The Cambodian government must ensure equal access to all journalists and media workers when covering events or issues in the public interest. The IFJ condemns the barring of VOD and VOA journalists from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s press conference and calls on the Cambodian Government to ensure no similar action is taken in future.”

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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