Draft cybercrime law threatens increased surveillance of internet users in Cambodia


A draft cybercrime law in Cambodia threatens increased surveillance of internet users, privacy rights, and free speech online, Human Rights Watch said this week.

The rights group said the United States, other concerned governments, and international technology and communications companies operating in Cambodia should call for the bill to be dropped.

Human Rights Watch said it obtained the third known draft, dated August 4, 2020. The government has received private advice from the United States, but the government has not shared the draft with the public or consulted with civil society organizations or experts.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has long bragged about listening in on phone calls and intercepting emails, and the proposed cybercrime law would give him further legal cover to do so,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The draft cybercrime law’s terms are incredibly broad and vague, and would give an already authoritarian government even more power to arbitrarily prosecute critics and political opponents,” Adams said.

The draft states that its purpose is “to ensure probity in the use and the management of computer systems and computer data and to protect security and public order.” Article 45 calls for up to three years in prison for intentional false statements that have an “adverse effect” on national security; public health, public safety, or public finances; relations with other countries; the results of a national election; that incite racial hostility, hatred or discrimination; or cause a loss of public confidence in the government or state institutions. Article 40 prohibits acts that vaguely constitute “disturbing, frightening, threatening, violating, persecuting or verbally abusing others by means of computer.”

The bill does not define any of these terms, such as “adverse effect,” “national security,” “public safety,” or “loss of confidence.” It also does not specify which authority would decide when the terms of the law have been violated.

Articles 32 and 33 on “unauthorized access” to a computer system, or transferring data from a system without authorization, face up to 10 years in prison. The provisions could be used to prosecute whistleblowers and investigative journalists who use leaked materials in their work.

Chapter 3 of the draft law mentions the obligations of “service providers,” but fails to clarify whether its application is limited to internet and mobile service providers, or also includes internet cafes or other places, including company offices, that provide internet access to staff. Articles 8 and 12 require service providers to store internet traffic data for at least 180 days upon request by the authorities. Failure to preserve data or to cooperate with the authorities are punishable by fines and prison sentences.

The most recent draft follows earlier versions in 2014 and 2015 that were sharply criticized by civil society and media groups for restricting the rights to privacy and free expression. The groups expressed concerns that the drafting process lacked inclusivity, transparency, and public participation.

The Cambodian government has already enacted several repressive laws that allow for increased governmental control over information and communications technologies. The 2015 Telecommunications Law permits undeclared monitoring by the authorities of any private speech via telecommunications without any procedural safeguards and judicial oversight. The law established an enforcement body of “telecommunications inspection officials” to investigate alleged offenses under the Telecommunications Law, with the authority to call in support from the armed forces “to join in cracking down on alleged crimes.”

In May 2018, the Cambodian government adopted the Inter-Ministerial Proclamation on Website and Social Media Control, which requires all internet service providers to install surveillance software to monitor content circulated on the internet. The proclamation grants the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications the authority to “block or close” web and social media pages containing “illegal [content] … considered as incitement, breaking solidarity, discrimination, create turmoil by will, leading to undermine national security, and public interests and social order.”

In July 2020, the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry proposed a sub-decree on a National Internet Gateway, which seeks to route all internet traffic through a regulatory body monitoring online activity. The sub-decree would allow for the “blocking and disconnecting [of] all network connections that affect safety, national revenue, social order, dignity, culture, tradition and customs.”

The US-based Freedom House’s “2020 Freedom of the Net” report documented incidents between June 2019 and 2020 in which online content ranging from Facebook accounts to online news sites and songs released on YouTube and Facebook critical of the government, “was removed following government pressure or user complaints during the coverage period, and users were forced to sign statements promising to stop posting some content online while they were held in detention.”

The Cambodian government has a long record of targeting critics of the government. Cambodia now has more than 50 political prisoners. The authorities also have arrested 30 people for peacefully expressing their views on social media related to Covid-19. Among those detained is the online journalist Sovann Rithy, whom the authorities charged with incitement after he quoted a speech by Hun Sen. The authorities also revoked two broadcasting licenses of Rithy’s news and radio site, TVFB, allegedly because Rithy broadcast information “which was to generate an adverse effect on the security, public order and safety of society.”

“Cambodia lacks a data protection law with safeguards to ensure that official requests for data are necessary and proportionate,” said Adams. “But this bill grants the authorities the power to conduct fishing expeditions for data without independent oversight. Governments should call for the Cambodian government to start over and draft a law that ensures protection for online speech and privacy rights.”

Today News Africa
Today News Africahttps://todaynewsafrica.com
TODAY NEWS AFRICA is registered and headquartered in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Our publication is widely read, respected and influential. By providing daily answers to questions our readers have about the people, the businesses and the continent of Africa, we are reaching a diverse and wide audience from around the world. Our readers, many of them world leaders, trust us because we are independent and truthful. Our advertisers understand the difference between news, views and ads. Contact us: contactus@todaynewsafrica.com
0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Trending Now

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden says he’s concerned about escalating violence in Ethiopia and worries about civilians

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday said he was concerned about the escalating violence in Ethiopia. In a call with the United Nations...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks with Presidents of Kenya, Argentina and Costa Rica, and UN chief

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday spoke with world leaders, including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the second African leader after his...

Ethiopian forces set to take Tigrayan capital, as many fear mass civilian deaths

The Ethiopian military said late on Friday that government forces were set to take control of Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, even as...

Biden to use walking boot for several weeks after sustaining fractures while playing with dog, doctor says

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden sustained a sprain of his right foot while playing with his dog, Major, his doctor said on Sunday. "Initial X-rays are...

Nigerian-American Adewale Adeyemo makes history as President-elect Biden announces members of his economic team

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury; Neera Tanden as...

President-elect Joe Biden slips while playing with dog, twists ankle

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. slipped while playing with his dog, Major, and twisted his ankle. The President-elect is being examined at Delaware Orthopaedic...

U.S. House members ask Trump admin to put on hold deportation of asylum-seekers from Cameroon and other African countries

United States House of Representatives members on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to put on hold the deportation, slated for Wednesday, of asylum-seekers...

U.S. ‘appalled by persecution of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong’

The United States government said on Thursday it was "appalled by the Hong Kong government’s political persecution of Hong Kong’s courageous pro-democracy advocates." "The...

In first sit down interview since defeating President Trump, President-elect Biden identifies the four crises he’ll face

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday identified the four crises his incoming administration will face when he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris...

U.S. must stop vilifying immigrants, says Biden homeland security nominee Alejandro N. Mayorkas

The United States "must stop vilifying" immigrants, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said on Thursday,...

Biden: We can and must do more for people with disabilities – statement

Statement by President-elect Joe Biden on United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities Today, Jill and I join with communities, advocates, and activists around...

Democrats and Republicans finally get serious about COVID-19 relief deal before Christmas

The Democrats and the Republicans are finally serious about reaching a COVID-19 deal before Christmas, as new cases increase and hospitalizations and deaths expand...

52,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Africa from 2.1 million infections, the lowest death toll in the world

More 52,500 people have died from COVID-19 in Africa from over 2.1 million infections, according to the latest data released by the Africa CDC. The...

President-elect Biden appoints Brian Deese as Director of the National Economic Council

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced on Thursday that veteran economic and climate expert Brian Deese will be appointed to serve as Director of the...

U.S. ‘appalled by persecution of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong’

The United States government said on Thursday it was "appalled by the Hong Kong government’s political persecution of Hong Kong’s courageous pro-democracy advocates." "The use of courts to silence peaceful dissent is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes and underscores once again that the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest fear is the free speech and free thinking of its own people," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo...
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
error: Alert: Content is protected !!