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ARTICLE 19 analyses draft Penal Code

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 21 September 2009 - ARTICLE 19 has produced a Comment analysing the draft Cambodian Penal Code provisions affecting freedom of expression. We welcome efforts to reform the current Penal Code, which contains a number of excessive restrictions on freedom of expression. At the same time, there are some serious shortcomings with the draft proposals, including the retention of criminal defamation and imprisonment for some forms of defamation, and overbroad rules on secrecy which apply to private individuals as well as officials.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Cambodian authorities to ensure that the new Penal Code is in line with international standards on freedom of expression.

Efforts to amend the Penal Code in Cambodia have been ongoing for some time. This reform is badly needed, as the existing Penal Code is out-of-date and repressive. At the same time, ARTICLE 19 notes that there are serious problems with the proposals for reform. The Comment highlights, among others, the following concerns with the draft Law:

- It provides for excessive sanctions for breach of rules restricting freedom of expression, including minimum jail terms and the possibility of being banned from practising journalism.

- Key privacy rules should be civil and allow for a public interest override.

- The defamation rules should, in addition to being fully decriminalised, not provide special protection for the King and judges.

- The prohibitions on publishing false news should be removed.

- The regime of secrecy should be substantially narrowed so that it applies only where release of the information would pose a risk of harm to a protected interest and it incorporates a public interest override.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Cambodian authorities to take advantage of the opportunity of reviewing the Penal Code and make sure the new version is fully in line with international standards, particularly in relation to freedom of expression.

The Comment is available by clicking here
The draft Penal Code is available by clicking here

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