Another event is shaping up in Cambodia! The government is considering establishing a law to target ‘creators and publishers of fake news.’ If passed, Cambodia will join a few other countries in the region with that law recently adopted.
Many people do not like the proposal. Understandably, that law can be a tool to curb the press freedom and individual rights. It can also be a weapon for the government to clamp down on opponents. These concerns are legit and should not be taken lightly.
In a democratic society, everyone should be able to see, read, hear, say, or believe whatever they want. That’s essential freedom to free speech and information. Society must guarantee such liberty for its citizens. Concerns arise, however, when that freedom is manipulated to divide the nation and create social chaos.
As we are well aware, people pass stuff around on social media every day; it is convenient, quick, and free. They post, click, comment, like, and share everything from photos to news to announcements, to all kinds of stories and topics. That is fine! Many use social media to sell and advertise, find love and break up, and of course, show off too. That should be fine too. Those who invite complete strangers to see and share their personal life online also have a right to do so.
Social media proves to be a useful tool for many things on many different levels. In addition to all those points I mentioned above, people also use social media platforms for social change, and for many other good causes. That is all great! But all good things come to an end when people use it to exploit others, to incite social unrests, or to score a political point among other things.
It is quite disturbing to have seen a recent increase in Khmer language Youtube and Facebook channels that are trying to spread misleading/distasteful information and smearing hateful propaganda. We know such is not the policy of Youtube or Facebook or any other social media platforms; they all have unique mechanisms to prevent abuse and exploitation of their applications. But when every content is in Khmer, there is only so much those organizations can do.
I wish to see these people be held responsible. Such action is damaging and dangerous if allowed to continue without appropriate and timely measures or checks, as many innocent online users believe anything and everything they see.
So the big question is: Should such a law be necessary to deal with ‘fake news’? It may be a useful tool if the government is honest in having the law; the law should be there to strengthen national unity and to benefit society, not to protect self-interest and power.