ARTICLE 19 thanks the Special Rapporteur for his report and welcome the development of comprehensive benchmarks to address the human rights crisis in Cambodia. With national elections on the horizon, it is more essential than ever that the authorities meet these benchmarks and fully protect human rights in the country. The right to freedom of expression and protection of a diverse, free and independent media are prerequisites to ensuring free and fair elections and constitute one of the essential foundations of a democratic society.
In the run up to the elections, the authorities continue to weaponise the legal framework to silence critical and oppositional views, including through vague criminal provisions on incitement, defamation and lèse majesté. At the same time, amendments to the Constitution passed in July weaken the parliamentary system and essential checks and balances on the government.
The Cambodian government is showing increasing intolerance for journalists and independent media outlets, including my ramping up efforts to deter, stop, and punish reporting that is unfavourable of the government, particularly those reporting on environmental issues and growing corruption among the political and economic elite. In the first six months of 2022, authorities arrested and imprisoned 10 journalists, and a further 17 have been subject to threats or violence. This year, the government revoked the licences of three digital media outlets – Bayong Times, Khmer Cover TV and Cambodia Today – for reporting on corruption.
Despite calls from multiple UN Special Procedures to abandon the looming National Internet Gateway, the Cambodian authorities are going ahead with their plans, bringing devastating effects on the rights to freedom of expression and privacy online.
We urge the Cambodian authorities to fully meet the benchmarks outlined in the report, including repealing laws that violate the right to freedom of expression, dropping charges and releasing journalists and other civil society actors, and abandoning plans for a National Internet Gateway.