Anybody Permitted to Impose Internet Controls? – Friday, 18.3.2011

The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 708

On 6 March 2011, The Mirror had tried stock taking in view of a variety of different events where the free flow of information via the Internet into Cambodia and within Cambodia seems to have been compromised. At that time I had written: Technical Policy Ministry Staff Challenges Higher Authorities”:

Clarity on the background – not on all facts and their legal aspects – surfaced finally when the Phnom Penh Post received access to and published information that the deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policy Regulation of the MPTC, Mr. Sieng Sithy, had sent a request to ten ISPs, to block the access to a number of web sites critical to the government, and he even sent a follow-up mail: “I am writing to extend my appreciation to you all for your cooperation with MPTC. Again and again, In case of not well cooperation is your own responsibility. Hightly appreciate for your cooperation,” mentioning also some ISPs that had not complied with his request: “We found that you are not yet taken an action, so please kindly take immediate action.”

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications clearly stated “that the Royal Government did not have a principle of blocking some websites. The actions of that Deputy Director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policy Regulation of the MPTC, Mr. Sient Sithy, were therefore clearly in contravention of government policy, when he wrote to ISPs, urging them to cooperate with an alleged policy of the MPTC to block some websites.

I considered these actions to be a challenge and violation of orders from higher authorities, committed by a middle level official of a ministry, using the name of the ministry.

A big surprise came on 18 March 2011 with reports in The Cambodia Daily, quoting that “the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications had said that the ministry had not investigated the matter and could not do so.” And he continued: “I did not order any official or Sieng Sithy to e-mail Internet companies. – I don’t know that Sieng Sithy e-mailed to any Internet company. It is an individual right.”

Does every officer in any ministry have the right to send out mail, in the name of the ministry, announcing and insisting on something which he claims to be the ministry’s policy – though it contravenes official policy – and get away with it, and even be justified for such acts, declaring that it is within an individual’s right?

This is extremely unusual in any organization, private or public – which is based on laws, when exercising public policy. If such activity is allowed, how can the public know what is right and what is wrong, what is lawful, and what is just based on the personal inclination of an official?

Norbert KLEIN

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Comments

  1. Johnlowrie says:

    Who exactly is in charge at ministries is the main question. The assumption is of top-down strong leadership. Yet many of us find gate-keepers control the information flow two-ways. It means important issues do not get to ministers or secretaries of state, sometimes because they are busy; sometimes to sanitize them from scandal, and sometimes to cover-up.

  2. Chumleas says:

    Cambodian public is smarter than people gives credit for.
    They know what is right and what is wrong.

  3. Chumleas says:

    Cambodian public is smarter than people gives credit for.
    They know what is right and what is wrong.

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