Thursday, January 20, 2011

All Hyped Up

Yesterday the Google domain that hosts this blog among many, many others was inaccessible in Cambodia, possibly from other countries as well. Blogspot.com, of course, is a huge domain with blogs probably numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is quite conceivable that sometimes there might be logistical problems, e. g. servers are overloaded, electrical failure (power outages still occur), or similar problems.

Pretty soon news made the rounds that one or two Cambodian Internet providers had shut down this domain, although the incidence and regions seemed to vary. On being contacted, one of them confirmed that a manager had ordered staff to block that domain. Subsequently, the general manager denied any such instruction; the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication purportedly also knew nothing about this, as did the Ministry of the Interior. For the full story, please see www.phnompenhpost.com .

Some pundits also got all hyped up about that whole situation and voiced their self-righteous indignation in blogs and comments. Sure, it could only have been the government, right?

Among the many blogs blogspot.com hosts, KI-Media, a news aggregation site, is probably the most widely read blog about Cambodia. KI-Media obviously gets its posts by searching the net for news about Cambodia, reprints it, and also must have good connections into some government circles because it sometimes publishes information that could only stem from those sources. Evidently, they are very close to especially one opposition party (SRP) and get a lot of their inside information from them. It also enjoys very close relations with overseas Khmer activists, plus the bloggers themselves are most overseas Khmer. A few of them, however, actually seem to be homeland Khmer. These people all have one thing in common: they want to unseat the present government and KI-Media is their mouthpiece.

They also have some contributors that have transformed the site from a sheer propaganda outlet for the opposition to a site for civic lessons. One contributor calling himself Khmer Democrat publishes texts from various legal sites, including the Cambodian constitution, obviously trying to educate the ‘dumb’ masses of Cambodia. This person may think he/she is pretty smart with what he/she is doing but nowadays nothing is easier than ‘cut and paste’ from the internet. What this person also seems to forget is that he/she is missing the intended target, as the people who would make a difference in Cambodia just don’t read the website – the young. What amazes me, however, is that one Theary Seng uses this forum for her publications as well. This lady is an intelligent and well-educated woman, a U. S. licensed attorney no less, who enjoys a solid reputation in Cambodian civil societies and is certainly misplaced on such a crude site as KI-Media.

The way KI-Media has evolved and goes about its business is beyond the pale, in my mind. From what started as a rather good, purely news gathering site, if you disregard the prevalent obscene readers’ comments, they have turned into a slanderous, undemocratic, demagogical, virulent, bile-spewing, contemptible political trash site. Those purportedly highbrow articles posted by several seemingly well-educated contributors cannot help their stature. A few years back I got a few posts published on that site, but once I became critical of the main opposition party I was henceforth banished. So much for their objectivity.

They accuse the government of being illegitimate, of having stolen the last elections, of tolerating, even supporting, corruption at all levels, brand the heads of the ruling party as traitors, of being murderers, and generally act as a platform for the failed opposition leader Sam Rainsy. They are outright racist when it comes to their opinion of the Vietnamese government and the Vietnamese people. It might anger some CPP officials what they read there, but they also might just dismiss the site as somewhat ludicrous.

The site never tires of calling for the respect of human rights, freedom of speech (and press), democratic principles, etc., but their own website does lack these things. We all know Cambodia is a developing country with all its woes and all is not well in the Kingdom of Wonder but KI-Media with its kind of low-level attacks is certainly not helping the democratic process. Overseas Khmer with a few homeland Khmer chipping in every now and then run the site. A duplication of the site without the vile commentaries is a blog called Khmerization (I have had many a dispute with that blogger about the situation in Cambodia).

Now it cannot come as a surprise that these two sites thought the government had blocked their sites when the outage occurred. Although the information at hand is ambiguous, I am sure the Cambodian government has by now come to realize that it just can’t simply and easily shut down websites. Proxy servers abound and it is not a problem to access a banned website from within Cambodia through those. It rather sounds as if some overzealous ISP employees misunderstood an instruction and blocked it. But it sure enhanced KI-Media’s profile over the short term and their number of hits, as well as those for Khmerization. This Australian accountant considers himself the great authority on Cambodian politics anyway, perhaps missing a sense of proportion in the grand scheme of things (although admittedly some of his posts that reach me via email are not too bad, especially the ones dealing with history). KI-Media and Khmerization simply attach too much significance to their blogs. In other words, they are just a little too full of themselves, aren’t they? Cambodia is not the U. S. or Australia. Although the internet is widely available and uncensored in Cambodia, the penetration of internet usage is only about 3-5 %. So who are they preaching to?

3 comments:

Casey Nelson said...

"On being contacted, one of them confirmed that a manager had ordered staff to block that domain."

When I contacted Ezecom about the apparent site block the customer service rep did not say that "a manager had ordered the staff to block that domain," but that "the Ministry of Interior has requested all ISP providers in Cambodia to block all of blogspot."

If the staff at Ezecom misunderstood the instructions to block blogspot, it was a very curious misunderstanding that even included the specific ministry that had requested the block and the exact nature of the request. And they repeated it almost verbatim on multiple queries, much like a prepared statement.

As convenient as it would be to blame it all on a misunderstanding by some low level flunky, I doubt that is the whole story.

Anonymous said...

Bo says:

Let say the KI media implicates the government about this internet’s interruption; however, I just wonder what is happening to DAS. It seems to me that he is voluntarily dropped dead or someone else is merely telling him to keep a low profile. What do you think, KJE?

KJE said...

Bo,
DAS is a woman. I have no idea what happened to her. She ceased her blog so abruptly without letting her readers know why or when, or even a good-by, that it all looks suspicious. Although she was critical of the government, she wasn't as virulent as KI and I don't think she needed to go into hiding.

Yeah, would be interesting to know why she stopped all of a sudden.

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