Cambodian government keeps lawyers on short leash
The Cambodian government and bar association should scale down their efforts to stop lawyers from speaking to the media without permission, a leading human rights organisation said yesterday.
Last week, instructions telling radio and television stations not to invite lawyers to appear on programs without the approval of the Cambodian Bar Association were made public by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), in light of the restrictions international donors should press the Cambodian government to end the ban.
‘Just when you thought the Cambodian government couldn’t think of any new ways to try to muzzle critics, it has imposed an election-year ban on lawyers giving radio and television interviews,’ said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director. ‘This ban dramatically demonstrates the government’s aim to control the media and the legal profession, but more broadly makes a mockery of free speech in a democratic society.’
The instructions, which were originally handed out to the media on 31 January, highlighted that many television and radio station had invited lawyers to explain certain laws to the public, as well as comment on policy and judicial reform.
However, the instructions say that to avoid ‘the negative consequences upon the people of such legal dissemination programming and to ensure that such dissemination has good consequences’, legal professionals should only appear with the permission of the country’s bar association.
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