Cambodian Government Latest To Stifle Press With 'Fake News' Legislation

from the fake-legislation dept

More “fake news” legislation is on the way. The Cambodian government — borrowing US presidential rhetoric and bad ideas from neighboring Vietnam (tbf, the Vietnamese government has bad ideas to spare) — is going to censor local press outlets under the pretense of protecting the public.

The government of Cambodia recently announced a new directive aimed at combating “fake news” that will reportedly, among other restrictions, require all websites to register with Cambodia’s Ministry of Information or face additional scrutiny. The announcement follows a meeting between the prime minister of Vietnam and the prime minister of Cambodia, and comes just ahead of Cambodia’s general election later this month.

This is only the latest move in the Cambodian government’s regulation of internet speech. Earlier initiatives created blockades for anything deemed to be a threat to national security and “specialized units” composed of Ministry personnel surfed social media platforms looking for things to prosecute citizens for.

This also follows a couple of incidents seen as contributing to the government’s consolidation of power. The sale of the Phnom Pehn Post to a Malaysian businessman whose PR firm does work for the Cambodian prime minister suggested the government wanted to be in the news production business. Another independent press outlet was hit with a large fine and a short deadline, forcing it to close up shop.

One of Cambodia’s most stridently independent newspapers, the Cambodia Daily, published its last edition on Monday with the headline “Descent Into Outright Dictatorship” as it closed amid a crackdown on critics of prime minister Hun Sen.

The English-language paper had been given a deadline of one month to pay $6.3m in years of back taxes, which the publication disputed and described as “astronomical”.

The Daily was a frequent critic of the prime minister and had extensively covered high profile “treason” prosecutions of prominent government critics. This closure followed the government’s shutdown of 18 radio stations and the institution of a ban on leasing time to foreign broadcasters like the Voice of America.

Given this backdrop, the new directive appears to have nothing to do with “fake news” as it would have been defined prior to the 2016 election. Instead of combating speculative reporting and outright fabrications, the term — and the initiative — will be used to attack anything the ruling class doesn’t agree with… just like here in the good old US of A.

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