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Gov’t spokesman urges ‘legal action’ for online ‘insults’

Gov’t spokesman urges ‘legal action’ for online ‘insults’

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan has formally called on the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Telecommunications to “take legal action” against people who use social media to attack civil servants and government leaders.

In a letter written yesterday in his capacity as permanent vice-chairman of the “Inter-Ministerial Working Group for Battlefield Information Coordination”, Siphan said he had recently noticed that “some individuals have used on social media disgusting and insulting words” to defame government officials.

“Insults and defamation are not part of freedom of expression, but a violation of the rights and dignity of the individual who faces insults,” he said.

Siphan called on the two ministers to “take appropriate measures against those people”, citing the newly established “culture of dialogue” as impetus to “get rid of hostility and violence”.

Officials at both ministries could not be reached yesterday.

Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponhearith questioned Siphan’s authority to make such a request, describing it as “weird”.

“Phay Siphan has no power to order the minister of interior, who is also a deputy prime minister, or the minister of telecommunications. He’s just a spokesman,” he said

Ponhearith added that he has “rarely seen a democratic country trying to file lawsuits against its own people … Prime Minister Hun Sen always says government civil servants must serve the people.”

Siphan, however, said that if such behaviour “is not controlled right now it will become out of control”.

In a report released this week, local rights group Licadho said government efforts to monitor web content, backed by a “new legal arsenal”, are threatening what has become “an essential tool through which citizens can share information on the social and political issues that affect their lives”.

It urged the National Assembly to “reject any legislation that seeks to impose severe restriction on fundamental rights to freedom of expression”.

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