By Bridget Di Certo and Kim Yuthana, The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday May 24, 2012
|A woman types a text message on a mobile phone at an office in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post|
Cambodia is drafting its first cyber law, a move designed to prevent “ill-willed groups or individuals” from spreading false information, government officials said yesterday.
Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha said the law is not intended to restrict media, but to ensure that the “common interest is protected”.
“The government right now is drafting the first-ever cyber law, given the mushrooming of … modern technology like Twitter and YouTube and email and all sorts of technology activity,” Ek Tha said.
“We need to prevent any ill-willed people or bad mood people from spreading false information, groundless information that could tend to mislead the public and affect national security or our society. We need to control this,” Ek Tha said.
An article posted to the PQRU website yesterday reported that the cyber law had been discussed during a meeting on Tuesday between Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and EU Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain.
The posting referred to an example used by Sok An to illustrate the need for a cyber law.
“For instance, there was a mobile phone message saying that there was a violent clash near the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge between supporters of the [Cambodian People’s Party] and the [Sam Rainsy Party] yesterday evening, but it was totally false,” the deputy prime minister was quoted as saying.
“[P]eople use modern technology to spread false information, so we need a law to regulate them.”
In February, 2011, the Post reported on the minutes of a meeting at which the minister for post and telecommunications requested that internet service providers including Metfone and Ezecom block the blog KI-Media, an opposition website that posts content often highly critical of government officials.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak told the Post yesterday the government had been working on internet censorship laws for some time, but no draft had been produced.
“We are pretty cautious about how it could be used and abused,” Ou Virak said, pointing to Cambodia’s disinformation law as something widely used to silence opposition voices.
“We already see exposure of human-rights abuses going viral, like when the police are beating protesters.
“International 3G was a major contribution for the population. Any laws to restrict it become a major threat.”
Ou Virak said it would be “pretty scary” if Cambodia adopted the Thai model of internet censorship.
Nguon Teang Pa, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said a cyber law could have a detrimental affect on development.
“There has been lots of money from donors [invested in] Cambodia, and if the government makes such a law, it would mean all the money invested so far is wasted and the government has set back democracy,” he said.
Phu Leewood, secretary-general of the National Information Communication Technology Development of Cambodia, which is spearheading the draft, declined to comment.
Chem Sangva, director-general of the inspection department at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, said Cambodia had exchanged experiences with other countries in the region to learn from them in drafting the law.
“This law would help prevent such crimes as terrorism or from other ill-willed people stealing state secrets,” Chem Sangva said.