Cambodian government clamps down on coronavirus fake news

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - To help fight against fake news in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has renewed calls for the people saying citizens need to be brave in response to the problem.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has renewed calls for the people to help fight
against fake news in the Kingdom, saying citizens need to be brave in
response to the problem.

The reiteration comes after the Minister of Information Khieu
Kanharith and a Ministry of Justice spokesman told officials to
investigate a group of people involved in spreading false information
about Covid-19.

Presiding over a graduation ceremony with 3,458 Vanda
Institute students at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, the
prime minister called on people not to be so afraid that they lose
their sense of reasoning.

He said the people should be vigilant amid the circulation of false
information from anonymous people, and requested that they be brave and
consider how to correctly approach problems such as Covid-19.

“I renew my call to the people not to be afraid of the issues
they face. We have to be brave to overcome our problems, especially fake
news and not let it overcome us.

“They say that the disease has broken out in Phnom Penh. However,
nobody is sick in Phnom Penh city. Therefore, we must look at the facts
to overcome this fake news, and people have to participate in stopping
its spread.

“Each person may have different beliefs, some believe, some don’t. I
ask those who believe it to come forward and prove it, otherwise do not
share unfounded rumours.

“We see people posting and sharing it, spreading the fear. That is an issue, as fear excessively leads to disaster,” he said.

Citing measures in France and Germany, the prime minister said that a
gathering of more than 1,000 people was not allowed. Meanwhile, Italy
has blocked 16 million people from leaving and entering areas infected
by the virus.

But the prime minster on Tuesday was meeting with more than 3,500
students and guests of honour at the ceremony. He said this is one thing
that Cambodia will still continue to do.

He said that Cambodia had prepared a budget of $800 million to $2 billion to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Kanharith on Monday urged officials of all departments to
monitor a group of people accused of spreading fake news, and to take
legal action if necessary.

“Officials of all departments have to work together to continue
combating fake news on social media. Fake news misleads the public and
pollutes society, especially regarding Covid-19.

“Some people have posted false news, which only impacts society negatively,” he said.

He said national broadcast institutions need to ensure they
disseminate information and news they receive from the Ministry of
Health widely, as the information was verified and assessed correctly
with scientific backing.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Kim Santepheap said: “To participate
in stopping the false news that is causing fear among the public,
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana has ordered prosecutors across the
country to implement strict legal measures against those who create and
spread false news.”

On March 9, the Meanchey district police force in collaboration with
police forces of the Anti-Cybercrime Office of the Phnom Penh municipal
police arrested a man after he posted a video relating to the virus.

A report from the police said the suspect was a 35-year-old resident
of Chak Angre Leu commune in the capital. The online seller had posted
the Covid-19 related video clip on a Facebook account under the name
“Tep Visal”.

Phnom Penh police chief Sar Thet said on Tuesday: “We have already
built a case file on the suspect. He will be sent to court today for the
crime of incitement.

“This case is punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment under Articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.”