NEC Backs Down on Plans for Legal Action Against Facebook Critics

The National Election Committee (NEC) on Monday said it would not pursue immediate legal action against Facebook page owners it accused of spreading “inciting” news about its work, but would take unspecified action if false accusations continued.

The NEC released a statement a week ago asking the government to take legal measures against administrators of at least two Facebook pages that allegedly posted content claiming the nine-member panel was controlled by foreigners.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea speaks at the Hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh, explain the vote counting process for Commune Elections. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

But on Monday, Khorn Keo Mono, director of the NEC’s communications department, appeared to walk back on any legal pursuit, saying the statement had been published as a warning to the Facebook users as well as professional news sites that reported on the NEC.

“We just reminded those page owners to be careful—don’t write twisted information,” Mr. Keo Mono said. “Some media in our country, they always take information from social networks, which are unprofessional and not proper information to publish.”

The committee would probably not pursue cases against the owners of the pages, which it identified in the statement as KM Khmer and Real News, since it appeared that they had removed the content in question, he said.

But the NEC “must take future measures” against Facebook users that continued to post false content, Mr. Keo Mono said, declining to specify what actions it would take.

“But now, we’re just doing a warning—a public warning,” he added.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia on Monday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the NEC would need to lodge a formal complaint rather than the open letter it drafted last week before the ministry launched any investigation.

“If we have the complaint and specified evidence, like they identify ‘A’ or ‘B,’ we will take action,” General Sopheak said. “If it is only an open [letter] like this, it is really difficult for us.”

Neither Gen. Sopheak nor the administrators of the Facebook pages could be reached.

A number of Facebook users have wound up behind bars over the past two years for Facebook posts threatening top officials or for calling for “color revolution.”

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