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Cambodia plans to regulate internet and blogging

Cambodia’s Ministry of Information is drafting a law that will extend the current print media regulations to other forms of media, including the internet. According to unofficial surveys, there are more than 70,000 regular Internet users in Cambodia today.

The new legislation will broaden the mandate of the Ministry as a response to the expansion of media networks in Cambodia. There are now 25 radio channels and 7 television channels broadcasting in Phnom Penh. But the government clarifies news websites will not be affected by the law. The Mirror reports:

The Ministry of Information said that electronic news (such as newspapers) will not be affected by this new law, because the major intention of this law is to control the publishing of audio-visual data, of games, and of entertainment programs and advertisements through the Internet, to ensure moral respect.

This law will therefore also relate to audio-visual publishing through the Internet and through mobile phones. Over the course of the years, mobile phones are being used in general and at present, users can listen to radio, watch television, and send voice and picture messages through mobile phones.

Worried about the impact of new technologies in society, the Ministry wants to ensure the respect of good morals.

“Though the responsibility of the Ministry of Information is now bigger, he said that the Ministry of Information does not have different intentions, besides protecting the respect of tradition and morality. He referred to an example that if we know that some Internet games have a bad impact on children, youth, or the Khmer society as a whole, the Ministry of Information will provide warnings about publishing licenses or revoke licenses by cooperating with relevant authorities.

The proposed legislation was drafted after the government condemned the website of Reahu.net for posting semi-naked pictures of Apsara, celestial beings in Cambodia.

Ka-set quotes an official who explains the role of the law in identifying agencies responsible for monitoring content in the internet:

The Secretary of State gave another example: “If a website displays the picture of a beautiful Cambodian actress and makes a montage with the body of a naked person, which Ministry is entitled to react to this, at the moment? The Ministry of Culture? Or the Interior? With the new law, the Ministry of Information will have prime responsibility over that as it will control the broadcasting of all audiovisual data”, the official observed.

Even foreigners who do not speak the correct local accent will be banned in the airwaves:

Some speak Khmer with a heavy foreign accent! It is something that worries us. With the new law, they will be required to be of Cambodian descent, able to read and express themselves in accordance with the rules of Khmer grammar. Foreign presenters who speak Khmer will not be authorized to exercise any longer, due to their incorrect and inaccurate pronunciation

Some bloggers and media groups have criticized the bill. Vuthasurf is worried that the law will be used as a tool to silence critics in the internet:

“If the new draft law is passed, the Cambodian bloggers who used to criticizing the government’s activities will be afraid of publishing the criticized articles. And the law will be used as tool to control and calm down on internet and Cambodian bloggers.”

The Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) notes that there have been “no major incidents involving the Internet which caused negative consequences to Cambodian society.” The group added:

“It seems the government is applying autocratic rules to control everything about communication. We worry that this law would be used as a tool to control and clamp down on bloggers who harshly criticize the government and we appeal for the government to reconsider its current plan.”

The government denies that it plans to regulate the internet. It insists it “only aims at audiovisual and print media.”

8 comments

  • Gavacho

    Very sad. Who gets to decide what is “moral respect”?
    Banning people because of their accent????

    I have had a great deal of respect for the government of Cambodia, but I, and many more people will lose it very fast over this issue. This will put Cambodia on the road to being a totalitarian country again (does anyone remember the Khmer Rouge?).

  • rindy

    I alway believe in free speech. Hun Sen and His
    government never known as the champion of free speech.
    It is not a surprise to me.

    I disagree with reahu.net about Khmer culture, but
    it is a free speech.

    Some people think that Khmer people are conservative,
    but they are wrong. Khmer people are one of most
    radical people in the world that why you had Khmer Rouge.

  • Me

    Looks like China’s & Viet Nam’s influence with the big pockets of Cambodia’s government is working…. It’s people’s freedom is on the way out and Pol Pot is a shoe in.

  • […] Global Voices has more coverage. Filed under: Uncategorized — […]

  • […] december 2008) staat, dreigde het Cambodjaanse ministerie van Vrouwenzaken in december vorig jaar een website te blokkeren [en] met artistieke tekeningen van Apsara-danseressen met ontblote borsten en een soldaat van de […]

  • S

    Hmm, wondering on what ground this government is casting itself as moral authority captain. I am raising this question because I am seeing that some moral premises in governance system of Cambodia are quite shaky grounds. I am saying this because I have been noticing that the government is always reluctant to take any actions on important things such as: stopping corruptions and improving human rights situation in this country, etc and etc. To me, corruption itself is the root cause of many things, including being not “moral.”

    This does not mean I am generalizing that all Cambodian officials in government do not uphold moral values; and I don’t doubt they do. However, one can only wonder why this kind moral practice does not well translate into any other activities including but not limited to transparent governance. What I am seeing is, at an individual level, someone with little or no credential in moral area in such long stretch of history, and suddenly you see him run for moral captain post. You see what I mean?

    It is pretty much agreeable, to me, that the government is stretching its arms for more control and to keep tab on free speech, which itself violates country’s supreme constitution, which will raise a lot more questions to be answered in the future. Or might it be the indication that it is the government’s willingness to take action on stopping corruption first and then will help raise profile of Cambodia to be the most moral nation in the world? Sounds much better, doesn’t it? However, I doubt that it can be achieved by keeping tab on free speech, though.

    Respectfully,
    S

  • […] 20 Dec 2008) by Thailand, the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs, in December last year, threatened to block a Web site that contains artistic illustrations of bare-breasted Apsara dancers and a Khmer Rouge soldier. The […]

  • […] и интернет-вещание.По словам министра информации, широкое распространение сми помимо печатных делает эт…. В первую очередь он будет направлен на контроль за […]

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