Phnom Penh Post's sale to PR director increases media freedom fears

May 08, 2018, 03:22
Phnom Penh Post's sale to PR director increases media freedom fears

The Cambodia Daily, another independent newspaper, closed past year after it received a $6.3m tax bill.

"They said that as editor-in-chief I allowed the story about the sale of the Phnom Penh Post to be published".

It emerged on social media that Phnom Post editor-in-chief Kay Kimsong has already been fired while other senior staff have quit.

"I'm not going to stand by and watch somebody of Kimsong's professionalism and years of service and dedication to the Post just get fired for no reason,"he said".

The story, which remains on the newspaper's homepage, detailed connections between the paper's new owner and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The sale of the English-language daily, which has been largely critical of the government, was announced on Saturday by Australian businessman Bill Clough, who had owned the newspaper since 2008.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of worldwide NGO Human Rights Watch, said events at the Post following Ganapathy's takeover had been "disastrous".

It has been rumoured since early this year that the Phnom Penh Post had been issued with a bill for almost $4 million in back taxes.

Sivakumar, in the sale's announcements issued separately by himself and Clough, was described as having a background as an experienced journalist and representing a strong investment group from Malaysia. Clough stated that the Post's tax bill had been settled as part of the sale.

The story was still available on Monday afternoon on the The Post's website. "I didn't feel like I could do that in good conscience, so I resigned immediately".

At least four senior Post personnel, including its managing editor and web editor, resigned in protest.

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

Kimsong, O'Byrne and Baliga were all targeted by Sivakumar in an internal memo savaging the Post's coverage of the newspaper's sale, with the new owner calling on all three staff members to be "terminated".

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

The Post was founded in 1992 as Cambodia sought to re-establish stability and democracy after the tumult of genocidal Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s and subsequent fighting between its guerrillas and the communist government that succeeded it.

About 30 radio stations were shut a year ago and The Cambodia Daily, a long-time English-language rival of the Phnom Penh Post, shut down after it was ordered to pay millions of dollars in back taxes by the government or face closure.

The Daily's closure came weeks after a government crackdown on 32 radio stations, including Radio Free Asia's Phnom Penh bureau, according to figures compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an organisation aimed at protecting press freedom. "I wish the fantastic journalists at The Post all the best", tweeted Brendan O'Byrne, the business editor.

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.

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