Licadho Criticizes Telecommunications Law

Jonathan Cox / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Human rights organization Licadho yesterday released a legal analysis of the new Telecommunications Law, saying the law grants the government broad powers to monitor phone, email and text message communications between people without their knowledge or consent and could restrict political freedom in Cambodia.
It also raised concerns that the government could use the law to take control of private telecommunications firms.
Article 97 of the law allows the government to conduct secret surveillance of communications, authority the Licadho legal analysis said would mean “any private speech via telecommunications can no longer be considered truly private.”
However, spokesman for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications Hun Saroeun said the law is not in fact intended to give the government powers to secretly monitor messages or phone conversations.
“I would like to keep my answer brief: the answer is no,” he said when asked if the government could use the law to secretly monitor people’s communications. “The law does not have that kind of purpose. The purpose of the law is to protect the user and provide rights.”
Despite Mr. Saroeun’s assurances, the Licadho report pointed out several articles in the law that could be used to constrain people’s rights. The law expands some penalties, saying the use of telecommunications equipment to cause “national insecurity” would be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Harsh penalties for online posts have already taken place, with opposition CNRP members Sam Rainsy and Hong Sok Hour being detained or threatened with arrest for certain posts and 25-year-old university student Kong Raya being arrested last summer because of a Facebook post calling for a “color revolution.”
“The ludicrous conviction and prison sentence of student Kong Raya…shows the government is already willing and able to harshly punish online expression and suppress critical content by misusing existing laws,” said Licadho director Naly Pilorge in the briefing. “With the Telecoms Law that allows for any online expression, whether public or private, to be overheard and punished, the government is signaling even more clearly their intention to throttle freedom of expression online.”
The law could also affect the legal process by allowing telecom officials to destroy evidence in line with “applicable procedures” if it is declared “dangerous.” In its legal analysis, Licadho said this would give the government the right to destroy possibly exculpatory evidence.
At a press conference yesterday, United Nations Special Rapporteur to Cambodia Rhona Smith critiqued the Telecommunications Law, saying the passage of the law is “causing concern.” “Many stakeholders highlighted a claimed politicization in the implementation of these and other laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” she said.

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