It was sad to read about the worsening climate of free speech and press freedom in Cambodia in the article “At Capital Coffee Shops, Political Conversations Tainted by Fear,” (March 17). Of course, political analysts and Cambodians in general have a good reason to be afraid after one Cambodian political commentator was slain in broad daylight and another thrown into jail for exercising their freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under the Cambodian Constitution.
Nevertheless, there are countless other Cambodians who are brave in the face of fear and express their political opinions via the mainstream and social media alike.
Meanwhile, we should know that we feel more comfortable in a climate of transparency and openness in letting both our friends and foes express themselves. As French philosopher E.M. Cioran put it: “We feel safer with a madman who talks than with one who cannot open his mouth.”
After more than two decades of civil war, Cambodia has been able to enjoy relative peace and prosperity thanks to the development of democracy that promotes good governance, transparency and social accountability.
However, for democracy to flourish we need to nourish the culture of tolerance by enhancing freedom of speech and press freedom through robust scrutiny and criticism by the media and the general public.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies