Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Tuesday calling on the Cambodian government to immediately cease its assault on freedom of expression in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement is endorsed by 12 international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists.
The statement highlights Cambodia’s COVID-19 response, acknowledging that they were spared from high numbers of cases in 2020, but that beginning in February 2021 there has been a large spike. However, it then goes on to recognize the way in which the government responded to this with disproportionate and unnecessary measures in violation of Cambodia’s international human rights obligations.
The government is accused of silencing critics of COVID-19 efforts after they placed a de facto ban on independent reporting in the red zones of the country, which are areas deemed high risk for COVID-19 transmission. The information ministry ordered journalists to immediately stop reporting from the red zones, warning that they would face prosecution and limited reporting to only state media or journalists invited by the government.