Prime Minister Hun Sen raised cyber-security and access to information in his address to nearly 5,000 participants at the correspondents’ dinner held on Friday in Phnom Penh.
In his speech, Hun Sen called on officials and members of the press to wage a fight against fake news. He also said two laws are currently in the works to complement the existing 1995 Law on the Press.
Speaking before government officials and journalists – those who attended the annual gathering – the prime minister stressed the significance of having access to information and cybersecurity laws, on top of the press law which was adopted by the National Assembly in 1995.
“Even the countries that claim to respect freedom of speech are concerned about cybercrimes. Some countries which are regarded as [fathers of democracy] have laws to prevent and punish fake news [perpetrators],” he said.
The prime minister warned the possibility of some groups “misinterpreting” such laws and accusing Cambodia of heading towards dictatorship.
“Those who criticise the cybersecurity law have the intention to violate other people’s freedom,” he said.
Hun Sen went on share a piece of recent fake news claiming his death. It resulted in the arrest order of two prominent tycoons – Kit Meng, the owner of Cambodia Broadcasting Services, and Ly Yong Phat.
“To contribute to the destruction of fake news, what should journalists do? Spread the truth . . . that way fake news would fade away,” he said.
In his speech, he also called out some institutions who “had been objects” of “fake news” but did not “hit back in a timely manner”. Calling them “torpid”, he warned of a reshuffle in 2020 if he finds that top officials of those institutions do not react to “false allegations”.
“You must be active to solve it,” he ordered his subordinates.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that the in-progress cybersecurity law was inspired by that practised in other countries.
“Cambodia didn’t just take [the law] out of the jungle. We studied similar laws in the US, Britain and other countries because we are open – we are not a dictatorship or a communist country!"
“The whole world is putting its attention to cybersecurity law,” he said, adding that “those who are concerned about the law have the intention to commit cybercrimes”.
Meas Po and Khov Makara, spokespersons for the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication could not be reached for additional comments.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Phat Sophanit said the final stretches of the law is currently being reviewed by a working group before being signed off by the minister. The draft would be put for the approval of other ministries, he said.
Regarding the access to information law, Ministry of Information spokesman Meas Sophorn said it recently passed a technical assessment and will soon be reviewed by an inter-ministry committee before being forwarded to the council of ministers and parliament.
The director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM) Nop Vy pointed out the importance of the access to information law and said it was “to ensure social transparency and accountability among the society”.