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Ruling Cambodian Party Trying to Boost Hun Sen’s Numbers on TikTok, Telegram

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Ruling Cambodian Party Trying to Boost Hun Sen's Numbers on TikTok, Telegram

Since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen deleted his Facebook account in late June, where he had 14 million followers. the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has put pressure on students and loyalists alike to improve his follower count on platforms such as Telegram and TikTok, but neither a mass following nor a migration off Cambodian Facebook has materialized.

Hun Sen deleted his account June 29, hours after Meta Platforms Inc.’s oversight board — which issues binding content moderation decisions for Meta platforms such as Facebook and Instagram — announced he had incited violence on the platform and recommended a six-month suspension.

Since then, Hun Sen has moved his primary communications to Telegram, posting hundreds of daily updates to about 975,000 followers, compared to 850,000 in late June. His new TikTok account has meanwhile gained about 244,000 followers, and this month also reactivated Twitter for the first time in more than a year.

He has yet to reach the 1 million Telegram followers his office stated as a goal before the July 23 election, even with a quiet government push underway to draw more eyes to his accounts.

In mid-July, more than 15 employees from the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry visited individual classrooms at a Phnom Penh university with printed copies of QR codes for the prime minister’s accounts, according to a student who asked to remain anonymous and shared photos of the visit with VOA.

School administrators meanwhile have been regularly reporting the number of students following the accounts in classroom group chats, messages shared with VOA show. A ministry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

“I think it’s really a big deal,” the student said. “They shouldn’t be doing this kind of stuff. But there’s nothing we can do. It’s the whole system.”

Hun Sen himself, various ministries and even local tycoons have called on citizens and local authorities to follow the accounts in recent weeks. At least two ministries have released public statements asking employees in their sectors to do so, while pro-government media has continued boosting the handles.

Pressuring people to follow officials online interferes with their ability to choose how they receive information, Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights told VOA Wednesday. ((712))

“Citizens should be able to freely decide the kind of content and information they want to access and disseminate, and the accounts they want to interact with, particularly those of public figures,” Sopheap said. Social media, she added, “cannot be used as an excuse to interfere with this fundamental freedom or to put pressure on rights-holders to force them to act in certain ways.”

Still, Hun Sen’s push toward other platforms has not deterred other arms of the government from using Facebook. Ministries covering information, justice, education, and public works sectors, among others, have been posting as usual.

One prominent tycoon, music producer and real estate developer Leng Navatra, who initially promised to leave the site along with Hun Sen later changed his mind; other prolific posters such as Information Minister Khieu Kanharith have also kept up their Facebook habits.

Meas Sophorn, the Information Ministry spokesperson, told VOA that although the prime minister had left the site, it was still valuable for ministries, citizens and other figures to share information and that the ministry did not plan to stop using it.

“However, the ministry will continue considering which social media platforms are relevant and popular to use … and consider using that platform to share information to citizens to be more widely updated,” Sophorn added.

Hun Sen has long attracted scrutiny for his social media followings. In 2016, shortly after joining Facebook, The Phnom Penh Post reported more than half his page’s likes originated from abroad, which experts raised “questions about their legitimacy.” Over the years, he amassed 14 million Facebook followers. Cambodia’s population is about 17 million.

That reach is part of what pushed the Oversight Board to recommend his suspension, arguing that his strong online influence — amid a lack of independent media — gave his violent rhetoric more weight. On Telegram, follower bots are available for purchase online, although the platform regularly removes them.

Despite Hun Sen having fewer followers so far, Telegram could ultimately afford him more impunity, said Wai Phyo Myint, an Asia Pacific policy analyst and Myanmar expert at digital rights group Access Now.

After the Myanmar junta was banned from Facebook shortly after the 2021 coup, it shifted operations largely to Telegram, where abuse, disinformation and doxxing – targeting someone by releasing personal information without their permission – have proliferated, prompting United Nations experts to call on the platform to “fundamentally” change its approach.

“We don’t really see any kind of policy changes from Telegram’s side, or any positive engagement, either with us or any other civil society groups in Myanmar,” Wai Phyo Myint told VOA. “It would be the same in Cambodia as well. … What we’ve been seeing is zero content moderation.”

Hun Sen has mainly used Telegram to forward hundreds of photo albums from the campaign trail and post the occasional voice note. However, warnings have also surfaced: late Thursday, he wrote a message in response to a voice note from an opposition party member.

“If you’re against the law, then the prison will welcome you anytime,” Hun Sen said.

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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