Cambodia has created a task force to monitor the spread of “fake news” on social media platforms and through private text messaging.
In a ministerial order signed on May 28, three ministries agreed to work with telecoms firms “to prevent the spread of information that can cause social chaos and threaten national security”.
"Each specialized unit of organization shall perform its duty ... to take action against the dissemination of any content, information or SMS, images, videos and/or other forms that would cause chaos and threaten national security and defence, harm relations with other countries, the national economy, public order, and discriminate against the cultural integrity of the country,” the order reads.
Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the task force was formed to combat cybercrime and to enforce new lese majeste laws that have already seen Cambodians arrested for allegedly “insulting” the monarchy.
He added that the new working group would also be on the lookout for Cambodians “inciting color revolution”.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said the formation of the working group contradicted the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
"Normally people need to receive information as well as express their own opinions," he said. “Whenever they are frightened and restricted in their freedom of speech, it means that they lose the opportunity to participate and improve the society."