7th, 2013 - We, the undersigned civil society groups, urge Metfone, an Internet
service provider (ISP) registered and operating in Cambodia, to issue a full
explanation of today's temporary blocking of Facebook, as well as the ongoing
unavailability of the Ki-Media website.
this morning, at about 9 AM, Metfone users began to report that they were
denied access to Facebook. The outage lasted for more than three hours.
repeated calls and numerous emails sent by NGO staff to Metfone's customer
service department, the only verbal response from the company has been that
they were "upgrading their systems and do not know when Facebook would be
available again". Without further explanation, Metfone's customers were left
wondering whether the outage was intentionally targeting Facebook and other
avenues of free expression that have become increasingly vital to Cambodia's
public sphere. "Metfone is further restricting access to the Internet, despite
charging full rates to its customers without any warnings or explanations as to
why they have done this" said Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO.
is not the first time Metfone has blocked or restrained access to certain websites
or content. In January 2011, website KI-Media (and initially all blogs hosted
by the domain Blogspot) was blocked by numerous ISPs, including Metfone. At the
time, Minister of Information Khieu Kannarith denied the involvement of the
government. Over the following days, after verbal and written complaints,
access to the website was restored by most providers - except Metfone. In early
February 2011, a new wave of censorship hit, affecting KI-Media and other
websites perceived as critical of the government. The involved ISPs included
Online, WiCam, Metfone and Ezecom. Although So Khun, Minister of Posts and
Telecommunications, denied that the government had "ordered" ISPs to
block opposition- aligned Web sites, the government's behavior in the preceding
months hinted that such outages were at least being considered.
December 2010, Chairman of the Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Border Commission told
Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the government would shut down KI-Media, while in
February 2011, the Phnom Penh Post reported that So Khun had asked mobile phone
operators to "cooperate" in blocking certain websites "that
affect Khmer morality and tradition and the government."
signs of intent to block access to independent sources of information and
social media in Cambodia followed, such as the November 2012 circular from the
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications ordering the closure of all Internet
cafes within a 500 meter radius of schools and educational institutions. Had it
been implemented, this measure would have amounted to a near- complete ban on
such businesses in central Phnom Penh.
traditional media being mostly, and in the case of television exclusively,
controlled by the government, an increasing number of Cambodians rely on
websites such as Facebook to access independent information.
and Twitter, among others, are the new "go-to" sources for information, as well
as being actual political barometers," said Mr. Pa Ngoun Teang, CCIM Executive
Director. "With the heavy censorship of traditional televised media, Facebook
has become one of the main alternative sources of information for a large part
of Cambodia's population".
networking websites are also an increasingly central tool for Cambodians to
organize around shared interests, opinions and beliefs. This was especially
true in the run-up to the elections, where a lot of the campaigning was played
out on the Internet.
recent election campaign and election results in Cambodia highlighted the
growing importance of social media in Cambodia. We noticed a massive amount of
information on the election campaign shared on social networking sites such a
Facebook." said by Vorn Pao, president of IDEA.
launched in Cambodia in 2009, is one of the main telecommunications service
providers in Cambodia and is owned by Viettel Group, Vietnam's largest mobile
network operator. Viettel is a public enterprise owned and operated by the
Vietnam's Ministry of Defence.
company has yet to issue a company statement or a comprehensive response to the
multiple NGO emails asking for further details about today's blockage.
the undersigned civil society groups, call upon Metfone to fully explain the
purported technical issues that forced Facebook to become unavailable, to take
the appropriate measures to ensure that such outages do not occur in the
future, and to clarify why they continue to block other sites such as KI Media.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Pa Ngoun Teang, CCIM Executive Director, 012 598 066
Yeng Virak, CLEC Executive Director, 066 777 001
Mr. Vorn Pao, IDEA President, 012 534 796
Mr. Sam Ath, LICADHO Monitoring Supervisor, 012 327 770
The following civil society groups endorse this joint media
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Cambodian Domestic Worker Network (CWCD)
Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
Cambodia's Independent Civil-Servants Association (CICA)
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human
Rights (LICADHO) Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC)
Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
Equitable Cambodia (EC)
Farmer Development Association (FDA)
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)