Hun Sen’s fight to control the Cambodian infosphere

Like in many authoritarian countries around the world, the Cambodian free press is struggling. Its situation is not unique — autocratic leaders, threatened by the latent power of their opposition, frequently resort to intimidation to silence dissidents. Over the past decade, Cambodia has undergone a precipitous decline in press freedom.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government brutally stifles government-critical independent media, most recently with the forced closure of Voice of Democracy, one of the last independent media sources in the country. Ahead of the 2018 elections, Hun Sen ordered the shutdown of The Cambodia Daily and his associates captured the Phnom Penh Post.

In the 2022 Reporters Without Borders Index, Cambodia ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in press freedom. Between 1992 and 2023, 12 journalists were killed in Cambodia, cultivating an environment of fear for the country’s active journalists. With ‘fear of physical violence and legal [repercussions]’, Cambodian journalists are increasingly under attack— in 2020 alone, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association documented 35 cases of harassment against 72 journalists.

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