Blogging Site Blockage Sparks Censorship Worry

Access to the website of Google Inc’s blogging service intermittently appeared to be blocked yesterday by local Internet service pro­viders, preventing users from viewing blogs linked to the opposition and provoking accusations of government censorship.

The government yesterday de­nied any official blackout of websites such as KI Media—the content of which featured in a recent criminal conviction. However, customer service representatives of Ezecom said yesterday they had been instructed to block access to the service known as Blogger.

Though access appeared to be restored by yesterday evening, KI Media and every other site hosted by Blogger was temporarily inaccessible yesterday via Ezecom. In­ternet users also left messages on websites and sent messages on the microblogging service Twitter, complaining that access appeared blocked on connections via at least three other networks.

Tan Sothun, a technical support provider for Ezecom, said yesterday that the lack of access to Blogger was due to a government directive.

“I received this government no­tice yesterday,” said Mr Sothun. “I follow my boss’ order…. If he asks me to close a website, I will do it, like KI Media.”

Ezecom CEO Paul Blanche-Horgan said yesterday that he knew nothing about the matter and then questioned the information given by his employees. “Maybe they work for me or not,” he said.

Minister of Posts and Telecom­muni­cations So Khun yesterday de­nied that the government had acted to censor the opposition websites.

“We don’t have any official authorization to close this website be­cause the ministry didn’t create its domain name and it is hosted in another country. So how could we?” said Mr Khun, adding that he suspected the lack of domestic access to the site was the result of a technical problem.

A KI Media contributor identified as Heng Soy logged a post yesterday afternoon suggesting that access to the website was being limited by the Defense Ministry.

“I would like to inform that the and all blogspot website was blocked in Cambodia. Ezecom, the Internet Service Provide Company in Phnom Penh, certified that the Ministry of National Defense or­dered the Company to block KI Media and all blogspot websites,” read the post.

The website Cambodia Express News reported yesterday that an Ezecom employee had claimed the Interior Ministry was responsible for sending out the notice requesting that ISPs block the website.

Spokesmen for the ministries of defense and interior were not im­mediately available yesterday. In­formation Minister Khieu Kan­harith yesterday denied that there had been any official attempt to block access to the service, according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Mr Kanharith last month also denied that there was any government plan to censor KI Media after Seng Kunakar, a World Food Pro­gram warehouse guard, was found guilty of incitement and sentenced to six months in prison for distributing printouts of its content.

Addressing an unnamed person in a speech last week, Prime Min­ister Hun Sen said, “I want to send a message to say please don’t insult us by calling us traitors, because it will make trouble.”

On KI Media, the faces of senior CPP members including Mr Hun Sen are labeled traitors, while opposition leader Sam Rainsy and others are called heroes.

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