The Cambodian government’s recent order to block access to online websites and social media accounts of major independent media outlets. It has raised concerns over press freedom and freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch has criticized the move and urged the government to lift its orders to block access. There are The Cambodia Daily, Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Kamnotra, citing a violation of democratic freedoms.
Censorship Measures and Government’s Justification:
The government’s directive, issued in July 2023, aims to block media websites. It is considered to disseminate deceptive information affecting the respect and popularity of the Royal Government. The Department of Information and Audiovisual is responsible for enforcing these restrictions. It is citing a failure to comply with the Ministry of Information’s requirements. Human Rights Watch condemns this action, emphasizing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s disregard for democratic principles and freedom of expression.
Media Outlets’ Response:
Radio Free Asia (RFA) released a statement on July 17. They are denouncing the government’s order to block their content. They view as a clear violation of Cambodian law. The move appears to be an attempt to censor information ahead of the July 23 election, further raising concerns about press freedom and information access.
Previous Instances of Media Suppression:
The Cambodian government has a history of suppressing independent media outlets. In 2018, the Inter-Ministerial Prakas on Website and Social Media Control was adopted. It is requiring internet service providers to install surveillance software to monitor internet content. This proclamation granted the authority to dam or near net pages. Social media pages deemed to contain “illegal content” that undermines national security and public interests. Such legal guidelines seem to contravene Cambodia’s duties beneath Neath the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects freedom of expression, information, and privacy.
Targeting of Independent Media:
In February 2023, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, parent organization of Voice of Democracy (VOD), had its operating license revoked after publishing an article alleging the involvement of Hun Sen’s eldest son in a financial aid package for Turkey. The government’s moves imply a sample of preemptive censorship to suppress capacity complaint earlier than Hun Manet, the Prime Minister’s son, assumes office. Such actions have raised concerns about the future crackdown on free speech and media freedom under the next government.
Impact on Democratic Processes:
Media freedom plays a crucial role in any democratic society. The closure of The Cambodia Daily and forced sale of the Phnom Penh Post in 2017 significantly impacted the media landscape. Additionally, FM radio stations broadcasting programs from RFA were also shut down. These movements contributed to a basically incorrect countrywide election in 2018 and in addition constrained media get right of entry to for the duration of the latest countrywide elections in July 2023. The United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, expressed concern about the restrict space in which the 2023 Cambodian general elections were conduct, which deprived people of credible sources of information to make informed choices.
Cambodia’s recent measures to block access to independent media outlets. Censor information have raised alarm bells about press freedom and democratic principles in the country. The government’s actions, particularly ahead of the transition of power to Hun Sen’s son, Hun Manet, indicate a potential continuation of media crackdowns in the future. To uphold democratic values and protect the right to freedom of expression, international pressure and support for media outlets are essential. The role of independent media in providing credible news and information is vital for the nation’s progress and democratic development.