Human rights group Licadho has criticised the Cambodian Telecoms Law that came into effect in December of last year, saying it “poses a severe threat to freedom of expression”.
The Cambodian government had said the passing of the Telecoms Law was aimed at promoting the growth of the country’s telecoms sector and contributing to development, but Licadho said various provisions of the law undermined free speech and violated individual privacy.
According to the human rights group, the law “contains no reference to the right to freedom of expression or its protection, and targets not only online public expression but also any private communications made using telecommunications devices.
“Its most egregious provisions allow the government to secretly intrude into the private lives of individuals, destroy evidence before criminal trials, and seize control of the entire telecoms industry if arbitrarily deemed warranted,” Licadho said in a legal briefing.
“Its excessive measures, particularly those creating new criminal offences, reveal the true intent of the law: to intimidate individuals, punish the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms and quash individual and group dissent.”
Cambodian are set to vote in both local and national elections in the next two years, with Licadho saying it believed the Cambodian government has with the Telecoms Law “equipped itself with a whole new arsenal with which to threaten and obstruct civil society”.
The group has objected to various specifics of the law, such as Article 6, which obliges telecoms service providers to provide data on their users to government authorities without the need for a judicial warrant. Article 97 allows for secret surveillance with the approval of a “legitimate authority”, which Licadho says is too vague.
“The law’s stated purpose is regulation of the telecommunications industry and yet it contains provisions that give the government powers to secretly monitor the telecommunications of individuals without any accountability and to punish those individuals if their communications are deemed to be criminal,” Licadho said.