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Government silent on cybercrimes draft law

Government officials yesterday continued to decline to comment on a leaked draft law on cybercrime that contains provisions rights groups say are very concerning to freedom of expression online.

Article 19, the London-based group that obtained an English-language leaked draft, said in a statement that with a draft in the public’s hands authorities could “no longer deflect the legitimate concerns” of civil society organisations.

But Phay Siphan, spokesman from the Council of Ministers, reiterated yesterday that only once an “official document” was released would the government engage in dialogue.

He added, however, that in the meantime the government would “consider NGO ideas and suggestions” on how the law could be improved.

“We welcome to any input from the NGOs, but we reserve our right to make any decision according to the interests of the nation,” he said.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, when asked whether the government wished to control social media, simply responded: “I told you nearly [a] million times. No.”

He added that the law stipulates that “any offences committed through the media must be dealt with [through] the Press Law”, but wasn’t sure if this included social media.

The draft law would criminalise online publications that defame the government or affect “political cohesiveness”.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said the lack of transparency validates concerns about its “motivation”.

“I think the few millions of people, especially the youth, who are active internet users need to have their say on this law, and the government should consider listening to them or risk losing their support,” he said.

Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said the internet, “effectively the freest media space”, should be protected not attacked, and called on officials to release a copy of the draft in Khmer.

“If the government is interested in an open, participatory approach . . . there is nothing that prevents them from sharing drafts and receiving comments at each stage in
the process.”

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