Cambodia to Monitor Online News Ahead of July Election

By Reuters 5 June 2018

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia will monitor and control online news content intended to cause “instability,” an official notice said on Monday, the government’s latest move to control information ahead of a general election in July.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party and its allies have cracked down on perceived government critics, including independent media, human rights advocates and opposition lawmakers, in the run-up to the July 29 vote.

Staff from three government ministries would aim to “control news content, writing, audio, pictures, videos, and in other forms which have intention to cause instability,” the government said in its notice.

It also required Internet service providers to have software and equipment to filter or block websites, accounts or social media pages that “broadcast in violation of the law.”

Lao Mong Hay, a political analyst based in Cambodia, said the articles in the notice were “loosely termed” and capable of being interpreted liberally to charge authors.

“This inter-ministerial order will further severely restrict our right to freedom of expression,” he added.

The government said it aimed to control content “which leads to the destruction of national defense, security and relationships with other countries, public order, discrimination and culture, and national tradition.”

Cambodia has long had one of Southeast Asia’s most open media environments, but pressure on critical media has been growing ahead of the general election.

The sale of the Phnom Penh Post newspaper last month was criticized by one international rights group as a “disaster” for media freedom in the country.