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.
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?”
In order to achieve the objectives listed above, the following
activities will be conducted:
- both positive and
negative instances of freedom of expression in Cambodia will be monitored on a
- 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.
- 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
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.