The government, accused recently of launching a “crackdown” on its political opponents, yesterday released two videos touting the improvements made in press freedom and civil liberties in Cambodia.
The short clips, produced by the government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee, feature narration by Hun Sen, who has ruled the Kingdom as prime minister for more than 30 years.
He notes Cambodia’s media landscape has grown from two newspapers in the 1980s to more than 20 television channels and 800 print and online outlets today, and asks “how could a man be considered a dictator for having developed a state this far”.
In the second, he speaks of Cambodia’s economic development, as images contrast Phnom Penh in the wake of the Khmer Rouge regime and the city today.
“The 7th of January, 1979, has brought all sorts of rights,” the premier notes, referring to the day the Vietnamese-backed invasion force, of which Hun Sen was a senior member, toppled Pol Pot’s regime.
Political commentator Ou Virak said while the “propaganda” held some truth as the economic and media environment had indeed improved in recent decades, it glossed over many issues at the heart of criticism levelled at the government.
Virak, who is facing a defamation suit brought by a ruling party spokesman, said legal pressure was still regularly applied to journalists and critics.
The jailing of five people in relation to a legally questionable case against opposition leader Kem Sokha did little to help the government’s image, he said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, said criticism was often channelled through “some NGOs”, which he labelled foreign agents.