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Blockage of blog denied

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The government has denied that it has ordered local internet service providers to block a domain hosting controversial antigovernment news blog KI-Media, amid reports customers of the Ezecom ISP were unable to access the site today.

A customer service representative for Ezecom, contacted by The Post today, confirmed that his manager told him to block access to the website, saying the government had informed them to shut it down.

Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said her staff could not access any sites on KI-Media’s blogspot.com domain through Ezecom as of this morning, and she had received similar complaints from about 15 others Ezecom customers as early as Tuesday.

She said a customer service representative had also informed her that an unidentified government ministry asked the firm to block the site on Tuesday, due the highly critical commentary posted on the website.

There have been no reports of other ISPs blocking the domain.

Ezecom CEO Paul Blanche-Horgan said he was unaware that any actions had been taken today to shut off access to the website, forwarding questions to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Government officials contacted today also denied any action to block KI-Media.

“The ministry of posts and telecommunications did not attempt to shut them [KI media] down,” Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun told reporters today.

He said, however, that the government had to “make sure that what is on the website is true” and ensure it doesn’t post any lewd images.

When contacted today, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he did not know whether the government had ordered Ezecom to block the blogspot.com domain, but added that KI-Media deserved to be shut down.

“I don’t know, but it should be closed,” he said, due to its strong criticisms of the government.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment today.

Naly Pilorge from Licadho said that if the reports that the government had blocked the site were true, it would mark a significant narrowing of the space for public debate.

“This is a critical moment towards censorship and more repression,” she said.

“Free access to information is vital to any functioning democracy.”

KI-Media last made headlines in December, when Seng Kunnaka, a security guard employed by the United Nations World Food Programme, was charged with incitement and jailed for six months after he showed colleagues an article printed from the website.

Following Seng Kunnaka’s conviction, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post that the article had referred to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Var Kimhong, the senior minister in charge of border affairs, as “traitors”. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAMOEURN SAMBATH

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