Three ministries have issued a joint directive aimed at taking action against websites and social networks that post, broadcast and disseminate news undermining national security and inciting discrimination.
According to the inter-ministerial directive signed on May 28 by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Telecommunications Minister Tram Iv Tek and Information Minister Khiev Kanharith, one of ten articles in it is aimed at controlling meanings of broadcasts, messages, audio clips, images and videos or other forms of media on webpages and social networks.
“This directive is intended to block all broadcasts or news dissemination, or messages, audio clips, images, videos or other forms of media that are of intent to provoke chaos, damage national defence and security…incite discrimination or affect national customs and culture,” the directive said.
The directive orders all the three ministries to assign specialised staffers to monitor, study and research published media on webpages and social networks which are found to be violating the law so that legal action can be taken.
Ouk Kimseng, spokesman for the Information Ministry, said that since the three ministries are working together, the directive would be effective and prevent fake news.
“It is good that all three ministries are working together on monitoring websites and social media because fake news has occurred a lot in our society as well as around the world,” Mr Kimseng said.
“Social media sometimes creates a criminal case by broadcasting fake news because it undermines national defence and provokes chaos, affects public order and society,” he added.
Mr Kimseng said that if someone committed a crime online, they had to be prosecuted just as someone committing a crime offline.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said that the ministry will implement the directive.
“We must implement this directive,” Gen Sopheak said, adding that all countries around the world have laws to control the media.
Gen Sopheak gave an example by saying that Radio Free Asia reported that Cambodian soldiers stationing at the frontlines lacked drinking water, which affected national defence because they revealed the news to foreigners.
He added that although they were journalists, their hearts were Cambodian, so they should not have broadcast such news to incite people.
“Now fake news has happened and some people post it to defame others and complaints are filed against them, so they will face jail,” Gen Sopheak said. “Please don’t play around against the law.”
Im Vutha, spokesman for the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia, said he had no further comment than what is said in the directive.
“The Ministry of Post and Telecommunication supports and implements this directive in compliance with its duty,” Mr Vutha said in the directive.
Sek Sophal, a communications officer with the Cambodia Centre for Independent Media, said that the directive should be aimed at blocking porn images and preventing crimes from happening on social networks.
“If the directive is intended to prevent porn pictures from being distributed or any crimes from happening, I think it is good,” he said. “But if it just intends to prevent any news from being broadcasted, it will negatively affect the public.”