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Untitled For Immediate Release
October 3, 1996

Vikram Parekh Program Coordinator for Asia
Phone: (212)465-1004, x109

Press Freedom Violations Continue in Vietnam and Cambodia, CPJ Reports, Following High-level Fact-finding Mission with Peter Arnett and John R. MacArthur

HONG KONG----Oct. 3. A delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists led by Peter Arnett of CNN today concluded a ten day fact-finding mission to Vietnam and Cambodia, where they documented seriuos difficulties for local and foreign journalists in both countries, Arnett and CPJ program coordinator Vikram Parekh reported in a press conference here.

Arnett, Parekh and Harper's magazine publisher John R. MacArthur first traveled to Vietnam, where they interviewed scores of local journalists and top-ranking government officials. Arnett and Parekh continued on to Phnom Penh to investigate press freedom conditions in Cambodia.

Despite far-reaching market reforms, Vietnam's media remain entirely state-owned and subject to strict control by authorities, the Committee reported. The country's press is officially encouraged to expose corruption in government offices, but criticism of major policies remains off limits. Three publications--the daily newspaper Hanoi Moi and the magazines Tien Phong and Business and Law--are currently under investigation for revealing state secrets in articles about the country's civil aviation and oil field operations.

"It is disturbing to see the media being investigated for attempting to ensure public accountability," said Parekh, "but we were encouraged by comments indicating that the publications were not in danger of criminal prosecution." The country's ideology chief, Hun Tho, told CPJ that in his opinion the three publications had not committed serious violations, Parekh noted. CPJ is guardedly optimistic about the prospects for press freedom in Vietnam. "The very fact that we were welcomed as an official delegation and granted access to officials at the highest level represents a significant opening," Parekh said.

Cambodia's newly emergent press is highly combative, but also highly partisan and often inflammatory, CPJ reported. Local journalists work against the chilling backdrop of assassinations, violent assaults, and a restrictive press law. Four journalists have been killed in Cambodia since 1994, and, according to CPJ, there has been no credible attempt to investigate any of these murders. However, in a meeting with Arnett and Parekh, First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh described the lack of progress in the investigations as "unacceptable" and pledged to raise the issue with the country's Interior Ministry.

Cambodian journalists also face legal constraints, compounded by the lack of an impartial judiciary and police force. A new press law passed by the National Assembly allows criminal penalties for articles that threaten the country's "political stability" and "national security"--vaguely worded provisions that Cambodian journalists and public defenders fear will be used to muzzle the press. In response to CPJ's concern, Information Minister Ieng Mouly said a draft sub-decree aimed at clarifying the terms, would be presented to local and foreign journalists, as well as nongovernmental organizations for comment.

The New York-based Committee--a nongovernmental organization that monitors press freedom conditions worldwide--announced its findings at a conference in Hong Kong hosted by the Freedom Forum Asian Center. CPJ will also be publishing its findings in an upcoming report.

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