Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
151/ 180
Score : 34.28
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
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Index 2023
147/ 180
Score : 42.02
Political indicator
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Social indicator
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The democratic transition that began in the late 1980s allowed the emergence of a thriving media sector until former Prime Minister Hun Sen launched a ruthless war on journalistic freedom in 2017. His sad legacy of repression against independent media seems to be perpetuated by his son, Hun Manet, in power since 2023. 

Media landscape

The main broadcasters and the few remaining newspapers generally toe the government line. Many subjects are impossible to cover, such as political opposition, corruption and deforestation. Despite the growing number of online media outlets, few provide balanced reporting. Only a few independent Cambodian media, broadcasting from abroad, provide quality news coverage. The closure of the online media outlet Voice of Democracy (VOD) in February 2023 by former Prime Minister Hun Sen dealt a near-fatal blow to the country’s independent media environment. For 20 years, its news site and online video channel played a major role in disseminating independent information. Born from the ashes of VOD, the Kamnotra news site is one of the last independent news platforms active in the country.

Political context

Worried about ceding power after more than 30 years, Hun Sen launched a ruthless war against the media ahead of the 2018 parliamentary elections, silencing radio stations and newspapers, purging newsrooms, and prosecuting journalists. The independent media sector was devastated even before he ceded power to his son Hun Manet in August 2023. Since then, the few attempts to revive independent journalism have been systematically resisted by the authorities, as evidenced by the new crackdown ahead of the July 2023 elections. The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia gave orders to block access to the Radio Free AsiaCambodia Daily and Kamnotra websites.

Legal framework

In 1992, Cambodia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and adopted a series of provisions guaranteeing the free practice of journalism. A 1995 press law allows for defamation cases to be settled amicably. However, in practice, the authorities often resort to the penal code, invoking articles 494 and 495 relating to “inciting crime”, to persecute and arrest – without a warrant – journalists who investigate sensitive issues. The prime minister also took advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to pass a state of emergency law, which allows him to censor all journalistic content he doesn’t like.

Economic context

Four major business groups share the mass media market, all of them run by media moguls close to the prime minister and his family. For example, his sister, Hun Mana, is the head of an enormous conglomerate that owns newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV channels and news sites, all of which are quick to praise the merits of the government. The wave of closures and crackdowns on newsrooms in 2017 and 2018 set the stage for Cambodians to only have access to information provided by the large media companies linked to the Hun family, as well as by Fresh News, an online news agency that is a mouthpiece for pro-government propaganda. 

Sociocultural context

As the traditional media all cleave to the government line, Cambodians rely on the Internet, booming with the widespread use of mobile phones, to collect and disseminate reliable and independent information. But they are at the mercy of algorithms behind Facebook, the country’s most popular platform, which tend to favour officially sponsored content. Above all, the government hopes to establish a sort of digital great wall like in China. A decree to this effect has been signed, authorising the government to monitor all communications and to block certain sites by creating a single connection point for the 15 million Cambodian Internet users. 


Environmental journalism is dangerous in Cambodia. Two reporters were murdered in 2014 for investigating deforestation and illegal fishing. Since the clampdown in 2017, journalists can be arrested and sometimes spend months in prison on trumped-up charges of “terrorism” or “pornography”. Covering corruption cases that directly or indirectly implicate the prime minister or his close associates has become virtually impossible. Faced with these challenges, the protection provided by the Cambodian Journalists’ Alliance (CamboJA), created at the end of 2019, represented a breath of fresh air for the country’s reporters.