Phnom Penh Internet Forum to Promote Digital Rights and Freedom

The first Phnom Penh Internet Forum takes place this month with the aim of promoting best online practices and raising awareness about digital rights and Internet freedom
A mobile Internet user in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A mobile Internet user in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The inaugural Phnom Penh Internet Forum (PPIF) takes place this month with the aim of gathering key stakeholders to exchange ideas and best online practices while raising awareness about digital rights and internet freedom.

On May 18 and 19, vulnerable groups, CSOs, governments, development partners, UN Agencies, academia, and the private sector will gather in the capital for the two-day event to discuss a range of issues relating to the digital world. These include internet freedom, digital rights, and tech accountability.

“PPIF will act and serve as a platform to enable dialogue, exchanges of ideas, and best practices from both local and regional as well as public awareness raising on digital rights and internet freedom,” according to a press release announcing the forum.

“With challenges faced by civil society organizations in the drafting process of law and policies, this forum will provide opportunities for CSOs and government to discuss and find ways on how CSOs can engage in the law- and policy-making processes and contribute to developing an Internet which is rights-based, open, accessible and meets the needs of all stakeholders.”

The forum, organized by Digital Rights Working Group, a group of more than 10 local and international NGOs and associations that have been working to promote digital rights, rights, freedom of expression, press freedom, and internet freedom, comes at a time when Cambodia is embracing and pushing digitalization.

According to the press release, Cambodia’s internet penetration rate sits at 52.6 percent, with the number of internet users having increased by 14 percent in comparison to the previous year.

Telecommunications companies have attributed to the increase in the penetration rate, with the number of Facebook users in Cambodia rising to 11,021,400 in January 2023, accounting for 63.1 percent of the population.

Social media users also now access news via social media, especially Facebook which is the most popular platform in Cambodia. Many media outlets have also been transforming to digital media. According to the Ministry of Information, almost 50 percent of registered media are digital platforms.

The government has also been embracing measures to promote Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as a driving force to develop sectors. It recently launched the ‘Digital Economy and Society Policy Framework 2021-2035’ which lays out ambitious goals to build the foundations for digital transformation.

In February 2021, the government also adopted the “Sub-decree on the Establishment of a National Internet Gateway” and authorities are currently working on a draft Cybercrime law, and laws on privacy and data protection are being drafted.

“Civil society is increasingly concerned that the regulation of the online space might potentially impact the rights to freedom of expression and to access information which are included in Cambodia’s constitution and in the ICCPR which Cambodia has ratified, and demand that these rights are adequately protected in the abovementioned legislation,” stated the press release.

The first day of the event will focus on Cambodian NGOs, unions, journalists, citizen journalists, and private sector players. The second day will discuss multi-stakeholder engagement, such as government officials, UN agencies, tech companies, and the public. It will take in a series of workshops, discussions, and panel sessions.