Mass staff walkout at Phnom Penh Post owner's self-censorship order

Faith Castro
May 10, 2018

The sale of the paper came after a wrongful termination suit brought by a former CEO, as well as a $3.9-million (€3.27-million) tax bill from the General Department of Taxation (GDT), the Phnom Penh Post reported.

The sale coincides with a crackdown on opposition parties and independent media by Hun Sen's government.

BANGKOK, May 7 (Reuters) - The purchase of the Phnom Penh Post by a Malaysian whose public relations firm lists Cambodia's long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen as a client is a "disaster" for media freedom ahead of a general election, an global rights group said on Monday.

Editor-in-chief Kay Kimsong also refused and was dismissed. The Australianmentioned the paper had been "remarkably" free from authorities interference.

Critics said the loss of an independent press would have profound implications in Cambodia, a country that suffered under the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge.

More than 30 radio stations known to be critical of Hun Sen's rule were silenced by the government previous year, including Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

"The prospects were already very bleak for a free and fair election" in July, Sam Rainsy added in a telephone interview from Paris, where he lives in exile. "Our article was written in an attempt to maintain the transparency and integrity of our paper as we have done for more than 25 years".

More than 20 members of The Post's staff issued a statement expressing "disgust for this decision made in contradiction to the values of a free press that our hardworking staff have upheld since 1992".

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Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Proper Watch, mentioned the sale of the Phnom Penh Put up means "the final pillar of press freedom has been toppled in Cambodia".

Kimsong told Southeast Asia Globe magazine that he was sacked because he had "allowed the printing of an independent story based on journalistic integrity".

In a statement reportedly from Mr Sivakumar circulating on social media, he described the Post's report as a "disgrace" that "borders on internal sabotage" and said he now had "serious doubts" about the calibre of journalists at the paper.

Crispin said he anxious that the tax bill The Post was facing might have been a pressure tactic used to force the newspaper's previous owner, Bill Clough, to sell, rather than fight the bill in court.

The new owner is Malaysian investor Sivakumar Ganapathy, an executive director at Asia Public Relations Consultants Sdn Bhd, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur.

Concern over the fate of the English-language daily has been mounting since it was sold on Saturday (May 5) to a Malaysian investor whose PR firm once worked for Cambodia's authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Under government-related projects on the company's website it lists "Cambodia and Hun Sen's entry into the Government seat".

Former publisher Marcus Holmes, managing editor Stuart White, web editor Jenni Reid and senior editor Michael Dickison also quit.

Emotions ran high in the hallways and offices of the Post on Monday afternoon after the new ownership tussled with editors over the story.

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