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Cyber-Crime Law Could Engender Self-Censorship, Group Warns

Cambodian men using the Internet at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian men using the Internet at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia’s draft cyber-crime law, leaked to the public earlier this week, is deeply flawed, a UK-based rights group says.

The draft law, which was leaked to the public recently, imposes major fines and jail time for vague offenses and has many online users concerned.

“If passed in its current form, there is a serious risk that Cambodia’s currently free online space will backslide into the country’s deep-seated culture of secrecy and self-censorship,” Article 19, a London-based human rights organization, said in a statement.

The draft law, disseminated by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, imposes up to three years in prison and fines up to $1,500 for online publication of information deemed defamatory or a danger to public order and social stability.

Article 19 said the provisions appear “extremely vague and open to abuse.” It called on the government to officially release the draft for public comment.

Chak Sopheap, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Thursday the draft law could target human rights activists, journalists and other online users.

Government officials have declined to comment on the leaked draft, written by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.

Sok Sam Oeun, head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said some terminology in the draft is too broad, “which is dangerous.”

“If the judicial system were independent and competent, as in other countries, a vague law could be used to criminalize wrongdoers,” he said. “But in our legal context, the vagueness can lead to persecution.”