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The World Conference on International Telecommunications – and the Freedom of Communication

By: Norbert Klein Posted: December-02-2012 in
Norbert Klein

The International Telecommunications Union – ITU - an organ of the United Nations - is convening a World Conference on International Telecommunications – WCIT - in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 3-14 December 2012.

Preparations have been made by the governments of many countries during the last couple of months. The governments of some countries – like for example Bulgaria – have shared some of the related documents and discussions with the public, as the results of the conference in Dubai will affect its citizens; some other countries’ governments have involved business and civil society not only to discuss and plan together – but have even included members of the civil society into their delegations traveling to the Dubai ITU conference.

As far as I know there has not been any similar outreach by the authorities in Cambodia, preparing their position they are going to present in Dubai. And in spite of some sharp controversies about the principle of the freedom of expression in Cambodia, no studies or public statements on the relation of this principle, and its operation, affected by regulations of the electric and electronic media have been undertaken and brought to publicly attention. The Inter-Ministerial Circular on Management of Telecommunications Service, Use, and Corporation, issued on 28 February 2012 by the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, has hardly received any public attention.

Internationally, the preparation for the ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications has generated a lot of discussion. I make here access available to a collection of some of such voices:

All things Internet and Law - A look at current events around the Internet, its governance, its user values, and its security.

This is a selection of different perspectives – one has to take quite some time to get familiar with all the proposals, arguments, and concerns - it is a complicated and difficult issue. But all the voices collected here are more or less united in one aspect: They all express some concern for the freedom of expression. I quote some headlines:

  • Why we must fight for its freedom
  • Greenpeace and the International Trade Union Confederation warn of government control over Internet
  • UNESCO: new internet regulations could ‘threaten freedom of expression’
  • Why Internet governance matters for press freedom
  • A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet
  • But not all governments support the free and open Internet

Not all governments – but also not all business models support a free and open Internet for all.

Obviously, so far it has been difficult to see much interest in Cambodia focusing on related affairs, along the attitude: "My e-mail works, and as long as only some ISPs block the access to some web sites, and other ISPs do not block, the situation is not too bad."

Yes, it is not so bad – but in a democratic society, the freedoms enjoyed in society depend on the people who care that these freedoms are respected and fostered to be maintained, and where necessary, be expanded and protected.

The Cambodia Chapter of the Internet Society has not been able to do much of its homework. In the Minutes of its Annual General Meeting from September 2012 it is stated:

A special concern for the coming months should be to work on creating and promoting awareness of developments affecting the future of the communicating society in Cambodia (access to information, new discussions on international access arrangements, inter-ministerial decree on video surveillance of Internet access etc.). Technicalities and training are fairly well covered by other organizations where many of our members are also involved. Therefore the Chapter should concentrate on the social implications of our slogan: The Internet is for everyone.

In some respects, the Internet penetration in Cambodia is impressive, even if this is related mostly to Phnom Penh and other cities - but that is also the area where much of public opinion is made. It has been reported that there are more than 600,000 users of the Social Network system of Facebook in Cambodia. But as long as to use this program is normally called "​លេងFacebook - to play Facebook" - this instrument of public communication and opinion is not yet seen as having the potential of a public voice and force it can have for a society.

The Cambodia Chapter of the Internet Society will regularly share more of what is going on in other countries, and on the international level – and invite that we also discuss the implications for the society where we live.

Norbert Klein
Member of the Executive Committee of the
Internet Society - Cambodia Chapter

General Information on the Internet Society is here:
Contact: Be Chantra, Secretary, ISOC-KH


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