Rights group slams sale of Cambodian newspaper

Joann Johnston
May 8, 2018

Kay Kimsong exits the Phnom Penh Post after being fired by the newspaper's new owner.

The newspaper's new owner, Mr. Siva, is the chief executive of Asia PR, a Malaysian firm based in Kuala Lumpur.

On Monday morning, The Post's editor in chief, Kay Kimsong, did not respond to a message seeking Mr. Clough's contact details.

Mr Sivakumar's new editor-in-chief, Joshua Pureu, has told staff the statement was not "entirely accurate" and the paper would publish the correct version of the statement. "I wish the fantastic journalists at the Post all the best".

The firm's website referred to "Cambodia and Hun Sen's entry into the government seat" as one of its projects.

Sivakumar said in a press release distributed to staff on Saturday that he meant to maintain the newspaper's editorial independence.

The sale comes eight months after another independent English daily, The Cambodia Daily, was forced to shut down after being handed an "astronomical" tax bill of US$6.3m.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, described the deal as "a staggering blow to press freedom in Cambodia".

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

A senior Cambodian staffer who requested anonymity told Southeast Asia Globe that local reporters had pleaded with the new management not to put the paper's long-running record of independent journalism at risk. Web editor Jenni Reid then refused and resigned, followed by the co-authors of the piece, business editor Brendan O'Byrne and senior journalist Ananth Baliga.

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.

The Phnom Penh Post reported that it had received a statement from its new owner saying he was "fully committed" to upholding the paper's editorial principles and independence.

Chad Williams, former Cambodia Daily foreign editor and former The Phnom Penh Post editor-in-chief, told Mumbrella Asia in an interview that much of the Cambodian Khmer-language media outlets are "very skewed towards the government" and are owned by people with "deep government connections".

But hopes of sustaining a free media have dimmed in recent years as the government has grown more intolerant of dissent.

"On some level, there's always been a keen awareness that what the papers were doing was a tightrope act, that the reporting on corruption, deforestation, contested election results was being done at the pleasure of a government that allowed them to exist for its own reasons". "Today it is clear that the editorial independence of Cambodia's last true independent media is at threat".

In a 2018 press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, Cambodia dropped 10 places from 132 to 142.

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