Reporters without Borders ranks Cambodia at a dismal 144 out of 180 countries for press freedom. Cambodia already heavily censors their journalists, and for some reason, the government feels as though this isn’t enough. The proposed Monitoring Committee for Journalism Ethics is allegedly a tool to keep reporting honest, but given the fact that Cambodia long ago made honest reporting illegal, it’s reasonable to assume that something else is at play.
The Ethics Committee is a Self Serving Government Fortifying Itself
The Cambodian government claims that the ethics committee is designed to “examine complaints by the public against journalists and media outlets” and teach journalists how to conduct themselves. As of yet, there is absolutely zero evidence that the Cambodian public has ever had any complaints against journalists.
The ethics committee empowers itself to sanction any journalist that reports something contrary to the narrative the Cambodian government controls. Only four of the 15 chairs of the committee will be filled by actual journalists, meaning that the opinion of journalists will always compose less than ⅓ of the opinion of the committee. The other 11 chairs will be filled by people who work for the Cambodian government.
Journalists and free speech advocates have voiced their concerns to Reporters Without Borders, rightfully acknowledging the fact that journalists barely play a role in an ethics committee allegedly designed to promote journalism ethics. Reserving four chairs for journalist was a useless symbolic gesture that will never influence the overall opinion or findings of the board.
The Government’s Not Done Yet
Hun Sen’s government has continuously made a concerted effort to move Cambodia more and more towards a model similar to China’s, where all freedom and privacy is removed from the equation and the country is blocked from international conversation.
Trained eyes who have watched governments go through similar transitions with their relationships with journalism are quick to point out that this committee will ultimately become the determining factor in fully restricting the press and only allowing government sponsored journalists to post government sponsored puff pieces of pro-Cambodian propaganda.
The government has already expressed interest in implementing a system inspired by The Great Firewall of China. Access to the open internet is extremely limited in Cambodia, and once the infrastructure is fully laid in place, that limited access will become nullified access.
The government is not willing to entertain objections to their propositions and intends to proceed with their agenda of restriction.
How to Freely Read the News in Cambodia
Journalists covering the state of affairs in Cambodia will need to use discretion. They won’t be able to post content in Cambodian markets, and will instead need to export their reporting to major news outlets that aren’t subject to censorship by the Cambodian government.
VPNs like TorGuard will help to circumvent blocks, allowing the people of Cambodia to read and comment on uncensored news.