The Information Ministry welcomed the establishment of a committee by a local journalists’ union to assess press freedom in Cambodia, with a spokesman saying the country currently relied too much on foreign evaluations.

Huy Vannak, an Interior Ministry official and head of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia, announced last week that his union would establish a “Freedom of Information Committee” to collect information about the problems journalists face in the field.

Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng on Friday welcomed the announcement, saying it was likely to contribute to solving issues for news media.

“The Ministry of Information supports freedom of expression and journalism in Cambodia,” Kimseng said. “Media associations should be involved in mechanisms to clearly demonstrate the ability of the local press. We are too reliant on foreign assessments now.”

International NGO Reporters Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index ranked Cambodia 143th out of 180 in 2019, falling from 142th in 2018 and 137th in 2017.

In April, however, Information Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn said that he rejected the Reporters Without Borders report.

“The ranking for Cambodia does not reflect the reality of overall press freedom,” he told the Phnom Penh Post.