Hun Sen’s government orders RFA, other news outlet websites blocked

The order comes just days ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
BY RFA Khmer
2023.07.17
Hun Sen’s government orders RFA, other news outlet websites blocked The government of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has told internet service providers to block Radio Free Asia sites and has ordered the closure of websites and social media sites of independent media outlets and databases.
Credit: John Thys/AFP file photo

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has ordered internet service providers in Cambodia to block the websites of Radio Free Asia and other news outlets ahead of this Sunday’s parliamentary election.

The outlets were accused of misrepresenting the government’s reputation and prestige and of failing to meet the Ministry of Information’s conditions for doing business, according to a July 12 letter signed by Srun Kimsan of Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia.

The blocked sites include RFA’s Khmer and English websites and RFA’s Khmer language Twitter page. 

The regulator also ordered the blocking of the Kamnotra website, produced by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, or CCIM. The website posts information, data or documents that people can use. 

RFA condemned the order, calling it a “clear violation of Cambodian law and an attempt to censor the free flow of information ahead of the July 23 election,” according to RFA spokesman Rohit Mahajan.

“Access to timely, accurate news and information, which RFA’s programming and content provides to the Cambodian people on a daily basis, is essential in any democracy where the rule of law supports free speech and a free press,” he said. 

“Despite these unfortunate efforts, RFA will keep striving to inform its audience in Cambodia with up-to-the-minute journalism during this critical time and beyond,” Mahajan said.

‘Undermines their rights’

As of Monday afternoon Washington DC time, access to some of RFA’s websites were blocked within Cambodia, sources there said.

Some RFA monitors inside the country said they were still able to access RFA broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube, Telegram and Twitter. 

However, Kamnotra has already been blocked by major internet service providers like Cellcard and Ezecom, CCIM media director Ith Sothoeuth said. 

“When sources of information are blocked, it undermines the right to information of the general population, which is guaranteed by law, especially before the election,” he said.

“It undermines their rights as voters, who need to be fully informed to make it easier for them to make informed decisions,” he said.

Cambodia’s 1993 constitution guarantees press freedom. 

But in February, the government closed independent news outfit Voice of Democracy after it reported that the prime minister’s son had approved a government donation to support Turkey’s earthquake recovery efforts. 

Previous crackdowns

Several other independent media outlets were forced to shut down prior to the last general election in 2018. 

And a government crackdown in 2017 led to the closure of 32 FM radio frequencies, including those that broadcast RFA Khmer Service content, the arrest of two former RFA journalists and the closure of The Cambodia Daily newspaper.

The July 12 letter from the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia also ordered the blocking of a Khmer language website that has continued to publish stories under The Cambodia Daily name.

RFA has not been able to contact Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia spokesmen Sieng Sithy and Im Vutha for comment. Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications  spokesman So Visothy and Ministry of Information spokesman Meas Sophorn also weren’t immediately available on Monday.

However, Ministry of Information spokesman Meas Sophorn confirmed to CamboJA News on Monday that the ministry had ordered the closure of the websites.

Cambodia’s Information Ministry issues licenses to broadcasters and other media outlets. The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia is an autonomous unit within the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.  

Translated by Sok Ry Sum and Keo Sovannarith. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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