Bun Tharum, Pich Samnang
Failed connections to blogs across numerous Internet service providers—including a prominent dissident site—has Cambodian web users seeking answers from their providers and the government.
Apparent blocked access to KI Media in all cases, and to all of Google’s blogspot sites in some cases, also raised worries that government censorship moved online this week.
From Tuesday afternoon, web users with service providers AngkorNet, Ezecom and Metfone had no access to KI Media specifically. Users for Ezecom and Metfone also had no access to any blogspot.com platform.
That means that some bloggers using Google’s Blogger platform have been unable to connect to their sites.
“Dat’s it,” tweeted sreisaat, on Thursday. “[S]till no accesss to blogspot sites. I’ve a feeling I’ve been singled out for sum reason.” Her blog, “The Sreisaat Adventures,” is hosted by Blogger and chronicles the everyday life of a Cambodian wife.
A Facebook user wrote “Please think again for blocking blogspot.com. Not only KI-Media that’s blocked. What about others. They’re innocent. Like me!”
“Ezecom blocks KI-Media (The Cambodia Daily’s front page today). Nobody is responsible of this matter,” Twitter user @vireax wrote on the microblogging site.
In fact, any blogger on the Blogger platform had trouble with the three ISPs. By Thursday afternoon, service was restored to Ezecom.
But KI Media—which is a news aggregator openly opposed to the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen—has been unavailable through the country’s biggest ISPs.
Government officials from the ministries of Interior, Information and Telecommunications have all denied that the government issued orders to ISPs to block access to the sites.
“So far, there has been no official document from the ministry to order the closure of the site,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told VOA Khmer. “In regards to a verbal order, I don’t know either. We’ve never done things verbally, like Pol Pot did.”
The Cambodia Daily reported on Thursday, however, an Ezecom technical support provider, Tan Sothun, saying the company had been ordered to shutter KI Media.
Ezecom issued a strong denial on Thursday, saying it had “not blocked access to any website, nor received a directive from any member of the Royal Government of Cambodia.”
“Reportedly EZECOM Customer Service staff stated that we received a directive from the government,” Paul Blanche-Horgan, chief executive of the company, said in the statement. “As the CEO I can say, we have received no directive, nor did we block access to any websites on our service.”
Metfone officials could not be reached for comment Thursday. An Angkornet official said the company was looking into a problem on its side.
Two Internet experts who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue said Thursday it was not possible for users to be blocked from specific sites without the involvement of the ISPs.
Access to KI Media was restored on Ezecom on Thursday. It was not accessible at all via AngkorNet or Metfone Thursday.
The blocked access sent ripples through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, where concerns of government censorship grew.
Sreisaat called the blocked sites “a comedy of errors” in her Twitter feed. “KI-media is unblocked now and is more popular than ever.”
The Cambodian government and courts have come under fire recently for attacking KI Media. In December, a staff member for World Food Program, Seng Kunnaka, was sentenced to six months in jail on incitement charges for distributing leaflets of an anit-government article printed from KI Media.
The international watchdog Freedom House has listed Cambodia’s media environment as “not free.”
Meanwhile, opposition officials and other critics have long bemoaned the difficulties of obtaining a license for radio stations or TV programming. Nearly all of Cambodia’s broadcast media is either under state control or ownership of supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.