A Justice Ministry official issued a warning at a Health Ministry press conference on vaccinations on Friday that sharing “fake news” on social media violates the country’s incitement laws.
Kim Santepheap, secretary of state and spokesperson for the Justice Ministry, said both those who create and share false information would face legal action.
“I would like to emphasize that for those who start disclosing false information, this is [against] one of your responsibilities under Article 495,” Santepheap said, citing the Criminal Code article for incitement to disturb social security.
“For those who continue distributing, [I] would like to clarify that want it or not, [you] will become the subject of an investigation by the competent authorities, because what does ‘share’ mean? It means we pass this message onto others. The purpose of sharing is the purpose of advertising. So, want it or not, it becomes the subject of an investigation by the competent authorities.”
A Facebook post has been widely circulated in recent days claiming that a teacher in Kratie province died after receiving a Sinopharm vaccine, leading to refutations from the Health Ministry.
Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine posted a message in a Telegram group with journalists on Wednesday that the information was false. No teachers had even been vaccinated yet, she said.
“Please, competent authorities help take the legal action,” she said.
Incitement to disturb social security can be punished by six months to two years in prison.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for human rights group Licadho, said some people might simply not know whether the information they were sharing was false.
“Sometimes [we] see that [people] are constantly sharing and distributing without knowing whether the information is true or not. This is a dangerous point if all distribution or sharing of false information must be punished. … That is something we are very worried about,” Sam Ath said.
Late Thursday, Cambodia also announced its intention to buy 5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from India, starting with 1 million doses in an initial phase.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry announced the plan in a press release about a phone call between Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.