Journalists Fear Tougher Restrictions as Cambodia Enacts New Law on State of Emergency

On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, journalists in Cambodia expressed concern that a new law authorizing a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be used by the government to restrict their ability to work.

The “Law on Governing the Country in a State of Emergency” was unanimously approved by Cambodia’s one-party legislature and signed into effect on Wednesday, despite warnings from rights groups and a United Nations expert that it could be used to unnecessarily increase already heavy restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The law was enacted as New York-based Human Rights Watch slammed authorities for using the outbreak to legitimize “arbitrary arrests” of opposition supporters and government critics, noting that at least 30 people have been detained for spreading “fake news” and other offenses since the start of the pandemic.

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