Cambodia’s Internet Gateway Causes Silence of News

A radio reporter Khut Sokun said he was doing less coverage this year. The reason is the fear of Cambodia’s national internet gateway system, which allows the government to monitor all online activities.

Internet service providers in Cambodia are given until February 2022 to divert all cyber traffic through a regulatory agency, or gateway, known as National Internet Gateway or NIG.

But since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration published the regulation earlier this year, it has been “more careful” in writing news and commentary in cyberspace.

Sokun is not alone, other journalists and human rights groups speak to FLY said regulations that allow for sentences “according to the relevant regulations” have raised concerns about the threat of arrest among the media, critics and the general public.

In a country with limited media freedom, the broad powers outlined in the NIG, including the power to monitor activity and block or disconnect internet connections, are seen by many as a tool to silence and magnify fear.

Some have highlighted privacy concerns and the possibility of snooping. Under a government decree, operators must retain data, share status reports, and require all users to verify their identities.

Online activist Thy Sovantha, 19, (left) and her friend use their phones and social media at a cafe in Phnom Penh.  (Photo: Reuters)

Online activist Thy Sovantha, 19, (left) and her friend use their phones and social media at a cafe in Phnom Penh. (Photo: Reuters)

For Sokun, who works for Voice of Democracy, one of Cambodia’s remaining independent broadcasters, the regulation had a direct impact on the way it worked.

He avoided coverage of rallies and others. He said, “NIG is not helping my professional work; on the contrary, it makes it difficult for me to cover.”

The journalist said that his activities and communication online risk being monitored and its coverage angering the authorities.

Local officials threatened him during the coverage, Sokun said, and authorities had confiscated equipment and confiscated his photos while he was in the field.

“I am worried for my personal safety and afraid,” Sokun told FLY in a telephone interview. “If we reveal something (verb) online), the government knows it all.” [jm/rd]

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