Cambodia: Controversial mobile phone ad

A recent advertisement of a major Cambodian mobile phone service provider is being criticized by many netizens for promoting bad behavior among the youth. The CellCard ad shows a group of young people taking pictures of another friend’s bottom and distributing the photos to others via the internet. Through the ad, the company hopes to promote its fast internet service. But the company also seems to ignore its social responsibility by encouraging the youth to violate the privacy of their friends.

Piseth Mao, blogger and also communication specialist for Women's Media Center of Cambodia, voices his concern and expresses a strong objection to that advertisement spot by requesting the spot to be banned. He encourages the company to convey a better message to the public particularly to the youth if it wants to promote its products. In his blog, Piseth asserted his right to freedom of expression to push for the removal of the ad:

LET ME USE MY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: I really want to see the latest Mobitel
(Cellcard) spot banned from all TV Channels. What is the value of the spot? Encouraging the youth to take a picture of a girlʼs ass and share it with a friend as the Internet is fast? The producer of this spot must be somehow unusual.

He continues by giving recommendation to the spot producer:

If you want to promote your good Internet connection, then why donʼt you think of something like “ A friend is at school and taking the picture of the lesson their teacher/lecturer writes on the board and share with a friend who is on mission in the province.”

With his recommendation, Piseth believes that the company, which he applauded for its previous commercial spots like the Angkor Wat promotion, would encourage the building of a better society where friends care for each other and allow people to stay connected and updated through internet accessibility.

Notably, there was also a past concern regarding another advertisement of a motorcycle company which devalues the image of women.

On the other hand, the government has just recently banned a TV series, titled “Strange Lovers”, which features a beautiful woman who will be auctioned for marriage starting with a price of one million dollars. This may be welcomed by those who see the film as negatively affecting the dignity of Cambodian women. However, there are also those who rather view it as a restriction on freedom of expression of film producers. They link it with past government orders banning the production of other cultural performances. For example, a pop song about a Buddhist monk touching and kissing a girl and another rock opera, “Where Elephants Weep,” which have scenes showing monks in bad behavior were also censored. The government justified the ban by invoking the need to respect social tradition and the image of Buddhist monks.

While banning performances may be acceptable in some cases, this action needs to be consistent with the freedom of expression principle and the government should look at the consistency of the content and intention of that content rather than the solely base its justification by citing good social tradition and national security which have been also applied to many critics who have been subjected to arrest or have been charged with defamation, disinformation or incitement due to their dissenting opinion on government policies.

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