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What?

The Cambodian Freedom of Expression Project aims to instigate legislative, structural and policy changes in order to improve freedom of expression in Cambodia. 

The objective of this project is (i) to propose necessary amendments to anti-freedom of expression legislation, and to ensure that international standards are implemented (ii) to ensure a reduction in criminal cases and cases of physical intimidation or violence against civil society and opposition members and (iii) to promote implementation of the recommendations made by United Nations Special Rapporteurs and any Universal Periodic Review. 

Why?

The right to freedom of expression is protected and promoted under Cambodian law. Namely, article 41 of the Constitution provides that all Khmer citizens have the right to “freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly”. While article 35 provides that all Khmer citizens shall have the right to participate actively in the political life of the nation and article 31 states that Cambodia shall recognize and respect the UDHR and the covenants and conventions related to human rights, thereby incorporating the UDHR and ICCPR into domestic law. Last but not least, article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR provide for the universal right to freedom of expression, subject to restrictions in very limited circumstances, i.e. for the respect of the rights or reputations of others and for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals.

However, the current situation of freedom of expression in Cambodia is dismal. The leading Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) owns and controls the majority of the media: television broadcast licenses are only granted to those aligned with the RGC, the cracking down on opposition newspapers and threats against journalists disrupt free expression and give rise to self censorship, and there are only three independent radio stations in the country. The RGC recently announced it’s intentions to adopt a Cyber Law to prevent the spreading of ‘false information’ and there has already been blockages of anti-government blogs and websites.

The new penal code, which contains several new criminal offences that pose a threat to the right to freedom of expression, leaves freedom of expression in Cambodia in an even greater state of peril than previously. The penal code upholds the crimes of disinformation and defamation, and extends the latter to statements deemed to undermine the reputation of institutions, while two new offences cover comments “intended to influence a court” and criticisms of a judicial act or decision.  Article 523 of the new Penal Code states that any person who discredits a "judicial act or decision" aiming to "endanger Cambodian institutions" can be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment and 1 million riel fine. Articles 495 (on incitement), 502 (on contempt) and 522 (on publication of comments intended to influence a court) offer a wide scope of criminalization for criticism of the judiciary.

Find out more about the situation of expression in Cambodia, please go visit CCHR’s website in Our Work section: http://cchrcambodia.org/our_work or read our report: “Cambodia Gagged: Democracy at Risk?”

How?

In order to achieve the objectives listed above, the following activities will be conducted:

  Monitor - both positive and negative instances of freedom of expression in Cambodia will be monitored on a daily basis.

  Engage - a wide range of civil society members will be given the space in which to engage the RGC, provincial governors, opposition National Assembly members, and freedom of expression experts, in constructive dialogue.

  Advocate - on a national, regional and international level, legislative, structural and policy changes to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression in Cambodia. Recommendations will be developed in three major areas: the Rule of Law; Fundamental Freedoms; and Participatory Democracy. Regular publications identifying discrepancies in legislation and practical issues with regard to the application of the law will be communicated.

Who?

This project targets a number of groups including Civil Society and the Government. Specific target groups include human rights defenders, activists, journalists, bloggers, community-based organizations, trade union representatives, NGOs, government representatives, members of the Royal Government of Cambodia, ministry representatives and provincial authorities.

This project aims to ensure the right to freedom of expression for all Cambodians, especially the poor and marginalized who rarely have their voices heard. It aims to protect human rights defenders, activists, journalists and bloggers who express opinions that are contrary to those of the RGC and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or that express opposition. 

The project will engage the above target groups in order to create dialogue and achieve important goals relating to free expression in Cambodia.

 
 
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