(CCHR/IFEX) - 13 June 2011 - This briefing note provides an overview of the use of new media in the Kingdom of Cambodia ("Cambodia"), the recent trend towards Internet censorship, and the grave implications for freedom of expression. In response to the 11th Annual Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet issued on 1 June 2011 in Budapest by the four specialized mandates of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (the "Joint Declaration"), this briefing note concludes with specific recommendations, placing the principles of the Joint Declaration in a Cambodian context.
This briefing note is written by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR"), a non-aligned, independent, non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights – primarily civil and political rights – throughout Cambodia.
The age of new media
In this age of connectivity, "new media" – defined as the digitalization of information – has proven to be an effective tool in disseminating information and organizing groups in their quest for the realization of human rights and the promotion of democracy. The Internet represents an essential medium through which citizens can share information and opinions on issues that directly affect them. One only has to consider recent developments around the world to see that the arrival of new media has fostered dynamic change and opened the doors to new channels of internal dialogue between the governed and their governments, as well as between individuals.
In closed societies like Cambodia, where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are traditionally strictly controlled by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), both the growth of new media and the increased access to online information are opening up new frontiers and providing fresh opportunities to individuals and organizations to promote and protect human rights and democracy. A number of websites and blogs have emerged which share news and information on important social issues and, through comment functions, provide an outlet for ordinary people to share their opinions on such issues. Increasing numbers of young people in Cambodia, both male and female, are embracing the Internet, and online activism is blossoming with a burgeoning number of "cloggers" (Cambodian bloggers) disseminating views on important social and political issues. Social media – particularly websites like Facebook and Twitter – are quickly becoming an integral communication tool not only for NGOs and activists to promote human rights and other ideas, but also for the Prime Minister and other government officials to communicate and share information with the Cambodian people.
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