CCHR’s Freedom of Expression Project began in recognition of the fact that the right to freedom of expression is a cornerstone of any functioning democracy. The Project reports upon the freedom of expression situation as it develops and seeks to provide concrete recommendations for the improvement of the situation of free expression in Cambodia. Through the Project, CCHR reaches out to Cambodian stakeholders, collects important information regarding the freedom of expression situation faced by journalists, bloggers, activists and NGO workers, and monitors the situation of free expression by compiling cases reported in the media or directly to CCHR. In addition, CCHR carries out extensive research, engaging national and international NGOs, academic experts, international bodies and national and international media outlets.
CCHR works to facilitate analysis and advocacy on freedom of expression and information; to increase awareness of – and thus demand for – freedom of expression and information; and to reduce criminal cases and cases of physical intimidation or violence against civil society and opposition members.
The human rights situation – in particular with regards to freedom of expression – continues to deteriorate in Cambodia, despite the fundamental rights guaranteed under international and Cambodian law. Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the “Constitution”) provides that all Khmer citizens have the right to “freedom of expression, press, publication and assembly”; Article 35 provides that all Khmer citizens shall have the right to participate actively in the political life of the nation; and Article 31 incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) into domestic law. Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR provide for the universal right to freedom of expression.
Despite these protections, Cambodian citizens are regularly targeted, harassed, charged with criminal offenses and subject to politically motivated persecution for speaking out against oppressive government policies. Land activists, media professionals, union leaders, and human rights workers across the country are frequently subject to legal threats, arbitrary arrest and death threats. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, CCHR documented 140 cases of violations of the right to freedom of expression. Amidst this worsening situation, there have been some recent promising developments, especially the rise in demonstrations in the months preceding the National Assembly (“NA”) elections, held on 28 July 2013. However, the tide may be affected by the RGC’s current violent crackdown on these rising voices.
The Project currently focuses on the following themes: the decriminalization of defamation in Cambodian law; freedom of the press; freedom of information; and internet freedom, with an emphasis on the upcoming Cybercrime Law.
- Monitor – CCHR monitors both positive and negative instances of freedom of expression in Cambodia on a daily basis.
- Engage – CCHR seeks to provide a space for a wide range of civil society members to engage with the RGC, provincial governors, opposition National Assembly members, and freedom of expression experts, in constructive dialogue.
- Advocate – The Project works on a national, regional and international level, to make legislative, structural and policy changes to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression in Cambodia.
CCHR works to advocate for and engage with the Cambodian people, national and international organizations, donors, embassies, and of course, with the Royal Government of Cambodia (the “RGC”). The Project assists human rights defenders, activists, journalists, bloggers, community-based organizations, trade union representatives, NGOs, ministry representatives and provincial authorities.
CCHR targets the poor and marginalized who rarely have their forces heard. We want to create a dialogue between all Cambodians, and to ensure that their right to freedom of expression is uphelp, even for those whose opinions are contrary to the RGC and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Through the Freedom of Expression Project, CCHR engages members of the local, national, and international community. This includes releasing regular publications to identify discrepancies in legislation and practical issues with the application of the law, bringing together members of civil society for roundtable discussions, and holding multi-party political platforms. CCHR is also involved with the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”), organizing submissions to the UPR Working Group and evaluating the RGC’s effectiveness in implementing the recommendations.