Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reversed himself on Friday as he rescinded an order that required all news media to use his full title: Samdech Akeak Moha Sena Padey Techo.
The order for the media to use a term roughly translated as “Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander” came in an edict from Hun Sen’s government issued in May.
The Ministry of Information threatened to enforce the edict last week, but Hun Sen announced the latest decision on his Facebook page.
“Regarding the use of the honorific title of a government leader, there is no need for media outlets to write exactly ‘the honorific title’ if journalists do not want to use it,” Hun Sen posted in Khmer.
Though Hun Sen lifted the edict, he also issued a warning.
“But the writing [of a news story] must respect the code of ethics and must have concrete sources avoiding the dissemination of an untrue story,” he posted.
English news outlets and independent radio stations had largely ignored the order, while most Khmer language outlets have long used the title.
The Information Ministry issued its earlier order during a nearly three-hour meeting at its Phnom Penh headquarters on May 12, telling journalists they must show respect for Cambodia’s highest leaders.
"We want you to state the full title of leaders in the story's lead or first sentence," Ouk Kimseng, undersecretary of state at the Information Ministry, said at the time.
During his more than 30 years in power, Hun Sen has exerted strong control over Cambodia’s media, and dissent is a risky proposition.
Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have attacked dissenters with lawsuits, and the government has thrown opposition lawmakers in jail on what many see as questionable charges.
On Thursday, the London-based anti-corruption group Global Witness released a report accusing Hun Sen and his family of carving a business empire worth at least a $200 million out of the impoverished country's economy to augment their political power.
The Cambodian government dismissed the report, but has yet to directly address the specific allegations detailed by researchers.
Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.