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Social Media a Potential New Tool for Good Governance, Expert Says

VOA Khmer Facebook fan page
VOA Khmer Facebook fan page

Social media has emerged to play a crucial role in providing many Cambodians with information that could mean better governance, an expert says.

Ok Serei Sopheak, a good governance specialist, told “Hello VOA” that sites like Facebook help people get information quickly and easily, and can therefore be a good tool for governance.

It can help keep government officials accountable, and help people communicate their needs, he said.

“There are times where we are too busy with our work and could not catch up with things around us, but with Facebook we are able to spend only a little bit of time and we can keep up with that,” he said. “Therefore, it is a source for distributing information on good governance.”

Social media will broaden even further with more transparency following Asean’s integration at the end of 2015, he said.

Cambodia currently has more than 1 million Facebook subscribers, who share news on politics, the economy and entertainment, contributing to vibrant online debates. Ministries are going online more than ever before as well, as well as police institutions.

Social media also contributes to debates of social injustice, giving people a chance to call out government officials on abuse of power, or even everyday citizens for crimes like child abuse. This pushes government authorities to act promptly.

However, activists warn that social media should not be too heavily relied upon.

“I think that the most important thing is that relevant authorities in Cambodia should have a clear principle to implement the law, rather than acting on popularity of a story,” Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said. “This means that they don’t wait till there is a public outcry to act.”

Insulting language and indecent postings of pornography have made the government consider stricter regulations on online access. But Ok Serei Sopheak disagrees with that policy.

“Can a law prevent social attitudes and prevent all of these from happening?” he asked. “And if the law is not written properly, the intention to stop any negative aspect would affect freedom of expression, instead, and affect the positive aspect that Facebook can give.”