NEW PENALTIES FOR PROVIDING "FALSE INFORMATION" PLANNED
Phandouangchit also said he would tighten penalties for those who give false information about the country, report IPI and WAN. At present, the penal code forbids criticism of the state, distorting state or party politics and spreading false rumours. Journalists who fail to write "constructive reports" or "obstruct" the Lao People's Revolutionary Party's programme face jail sentences of between five and fifteen years, note IPI and WAN.
IPI calls the decision to tighten the already restrictive penal code "a heavy-handed attempt at preventing critical news reports on Laos appearing in the international media." The organisation notes that on 30 March 2000, ABC journalists Ginny Stein and David Leland were arrested while reporting on the aftermath of a bomb explosion that destroyed a restaurant in the capital. Last September, the authorities reacted angrily to reports by the Associated Press that security forces were preventing the free movement of people at night. For more information, see www.freemedia.at.