Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry targets ‘fake news’



Ministry targets ‘fake news’

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith (right) chairs a meeting to discuss how to combat ‘fake news’ on social media yesterday. Facebook
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith (right) chairs a meeting to discuss how to combat ‘fake news’ on social media yesterday. Facebook

Ministry targets ‘fake news’

The Ministry of Information held a closed-door meeting yesterday to discuss how to combat so-called fake news on social media.

Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng said Information Minister Khieu Kanharith called the meeting yesterday but declined to go into detail about the ideas discussed.

“It’s just brainstorming,” Kimseng said. “The minister advised us he wants us to talk about how to come to the front to respond to fake news on social media.”

Kimseng denied that officials are drafting new regulations on the issue, despite the fact that the ministry said on its Facebook page yesterday that officials were discussing an “inter-ministerial prakas”.

He also said the discussion had nothing to do with a proposed “social media law” announced by ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun last month. At the time, Vun said lawmakers were seeking to punish social media users who are “attacking public figures illegally without evidence”.

When contacted yesterday, Vun would only say, “I don’t talk to The Phnom Penh Post.”

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith could not be reached yesterday and Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he did not have information about any social media laws because they are “not my responsibility”.

Prosecutions for online speech have spiked in the past year, a trend that Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Chak Sopheap called “deeply troubling”.

In the most recent example, a man from Kampong Cham province was arrested on his wedding day last month for calling the Cambodian government “authoritarian” in a video clip on Facebook.

According to Sopheap, the term “fake news” is often used by politicians in both the US and Cambodia to stifle criticism of their own shortcomings. “The key difference in Cambodia is that the government has the power to actually follow through on its criticisms,” she said in an email.

With the closure of independent media outlets like Radio Free Asia and the Cambodia Daily, “more and more Cambodians are likely to take to social media as both a news source and a platform for self-expression”, Sopheap added. “As such, the increasing attention being paid to the online space is unsurprising, though it should be treated with serious concern.”

She also said that any legislative processes should be conducted transparently, with the input of civil society and the public.

Legal expert Yoeurng Sotheara said that any new regulations or proclamations must follow the “parent laws” – in this case the Cambodian Constitution.

“Chapter 3 is about the right to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression,” Sotheara said. “And this right cannot be violated.”

Sutawan Chanprasert, a Bangkok-based program officer at the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, agreed that the term “fake news” is so broad that it could easily become a political tool if any regulations are passed.

“The situation seems to be escalating and more serious due to the upcoming election as well, for the government to maintain their power,” Chanprasert said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.