Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia since 14 January 1985
(“Second Prime Minister” from 1993 to 1998)
Predator since 2016
Cambodia, 144th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Sabotage
Hun Sen has proved impossible to remove in more than 30 years as prime minister and, with the same tenacity, has steadily undermined the press freedom that was initially guaranteed by the 1991 peace accords, to the point that little remains now. Under a semblance of democracy, he has created an opaque system marked by an enormous degree of corruption, with economic and political power concentrated in the hands of a small group with no desire to let nosy journalists pry into their affairs.
Fearing the possibility of defeat in the 2018 parliamentary elections, he began executing a meticulous plan to neutralise independent media outlets in the summer of 2017, deploying an arsenal of measures designed to either ban, obstruct or intimidate them. In the space of a month, no fewer than 30 media outlets were forced to stop operating and journalists were jailed on trumped-up charges.
At the same time, the “Hun Sen system” perfected a propaganda apparatus thanks to the control that his accomplices exercise over Cambodia’s mainstream media and, in particular, to the creation of a multimedia news outlet, Fresh News, that pumps out pro-government disinformation. In 2021, Hun Sen turned his sights on the few independent media outlets that survive online by starting to build a “Great Firewall” based on the authoritarian Chinese model. When completed, this formidable weapon will allow his government to control the online content that his citizens can access.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: Khmer democracy’s last defenders
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Threats (preceding execution)
“Now the two…who work for Radio Free Asia and Cambodia Daily, who are opposing me all the time… Write things properly. Or you will remember this.” (Said in May 2017 while pointing to two reporters in the front row of a group of journalists. Both of these media outlets were forced to cease operations in Cambodia a few months later.)