Cambodia accused of restricting freedom of speech in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak

Team SoOLEGAL 25 Mar 2020 3:15pm

Cambodia accused of restricting freedom of speech in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Cambodian authorities on Monday to stop arresting people for raising concerns about the effects of COVID-19 in Cambodia and saying they are spreading "false news."

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of HRW Asia, said that the Cambodian government is misusing the outbreak of COVID-19 to lock up opposition activists and those raising concern about the virus and the government's response. Robertson called on the government to “stop abusing people’s free speech rights and instead focus on providing the public with accurate and timely information about COVID-19.”

Since late January 2020, HRW has reported the arrests of 17 people for sharing information on COVID-19 in Cambodia. Among those detained are four members of the disbanded opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), all of whom remain in pre-trial detention. The authorities also detained a 14-year-old girl who raised social media fears about COVID-19 cases at her school. Twelve were released from custody after signing a promise not to spread "false news" in the future and to apologize.

On March 18, the Information Ministry reported that 47 Facebook users and pages had spread misinformation about the virus, with the intention of creating panic in the country and harming the image of the government. On 20 March, Interior Minister Sar Kheng warned that those who spread rumors about COVID-19 would face legal action.

As of 22 March, 86 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the country.

Tagged: Human Rights Watch   COVID-19   Cambodia   Phil Robertson   Cambodia National Rescue Party   Sar Kheng  
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