A NGO on international human rights law on Thursday criticized the governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam for using the COVID-19 pandemic to enact new laws that would allow them to have tighter control of the vehicles. the media.
The Swiss-based International Law Commission (ICJ) has submitted a report to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stating that the new laws “have provisions that are incompatible with human rights laws and standards due to their ambiguous language make them vulnerable to abuse. “
The report also details the harsh sanctions and criminal penalties for vaguely written violations of the law, which the ICJ deems inconsistent with the principles of necessity and adequacy.
“Laws in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam that do not comply with human rights laws and standards have narrowed the civic spaces in which the media operates,” said Mr. Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General. Zarifi, ICJ Secretary-General said in a press release.
“This undermines the important work of the media in performing investigative functions and the ability to convey information to the public,” he said.
In its OHCHR submission, April 16, ICJ cited two recently passed Cambodian laws that allow the government to block or limit the free flow of information online, online or by any means. other reasons for various reasons to prevent public panic, prevent the spread of false information in emergency situations, or “affect[ing] safety, national revenue, social order, dignity, culture, fine customs ”
ICJ also criticized two recently passed Vietnamese laws that allow the government to control content on social networks, websites and written materials such as newspapers to prevent “fake or false information. true “do” distort or harm the prestige, honor or dignity “of others, to prevent public panic, or inconsistent with the interests of the country.
It also said that Thailand has passed a law prohibiting the “presentation or dissemination” of pandemic information that is false or so distorted that it could cause misunderstanding about an emergency situation or possibly provoke a fear.
The ICJ also pointed out how authorities in three countries can continue to abuse existing laws to target journalists and social media users during the pandemic.
“Although ICJ recognizes the need to combat the spread of misinformation online to protect public health during a pandemic uncertainty, this goal can and must be achieved by using use the least invasive means, instead of unnecessary and disproportionate measures such as arrest and detention. , criminal prosecution and heavy fines, ”said the ICJ.
The submission calls for OHCHR to continue to work with the three Southeast Asian governments to better protect journalists both in law and practice, as well as to protect freedom of expression and information.
It also called on the three states to stop harassing members of the media, to drop charges against journalists and media workers detained for violating domestic laws that are inconsistent with international human rights law. .
On Tuesday, the Paris-based reporter freedom monitoring agency (RSF) released its 2021 Press Freedom Index, ranking Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries. surveyed around the world, a ranking that has not changed from previous years.
Cambodia was also unchanged at 144, and the RSF said Phnom Penh had “used the Covid-19 crisis to impose more censorship, block news sites, arrest journalists and declare a state of emergency. Grant that allows the country to have the right to censor and spy on traditional and online media. “
In Thailand, which improved by three points to 137, “the government used the coronavirus crisis to issue a decree that made the dissemination of information ‘false or potentially frightening to the public’. will be fined up to 5 years in prison and allow the RSF to speak.