The new owner of Cambodia's last independent newspaper has purged staff and criticised the Australian owner

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images
  • Cambodia’s last independent newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, has been purged of staff after publishing an article about the paper’s sale to the owner of a PR firm.
  • At least six staff, including the editor-in-chief, have been fired or resigned after the new owner of the paper demanded the article be taken down.
  • The PR firm in question previously worked on a campaign for Cambodia’s prime minister.
  • Cambodia has seen a sweeping media crackdown and Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken steps to silence political opposition and media dissent.

Cambodia’s last independent English-language newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, has been purged of staff after it ran an article about the paper’s sale.

At least six staff, including Editor-in-Chief Kay Kimsong, have resigned or been fired since the paper’s new owner, Sivakumar S Ganapathy, demanded staff take down an article published on Sunday about the sale.

In a statement, the owner said the article is a “disgrace and an insult” to the paper’s independence, “smells of malice,” and “borders on internal sabotage,” highlighting several issues including the initial “S” was missing from his name. He also mentioned three staff by name to be terminated.

Nearly two dozen current and former staff members released a statement on Monday evening, condemning the new owner’s demands.

“Representatives of the new owners arrived today and ordered that staff remove the article from our website. They did not cite any specific factual inaccuracies. As a direct result, they fired our Editor-in-Chief,” the statement read.

Managing Editor Stuart White said he was asked to take down the article as “direct order” from new management, and felt it signalled the paper’s independence “may be in jeopardy going forward.”

The sale of the paper drew controversy because Ganapathy is also the managing director of Asia PR, a firm that previously worked on, and promotes on its website, a project to secure “[Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s entry into the Government seat.”

The Phnom Penh Post was sold by Australian mining magnate Bill Clough, who had owned the paper since 2008. Ganapathy’s statement also called out Clough.

“I plan to also express my utter disappointment to ex-owner Bill Clough who had assured me that the news team were of high-calibre (now I have serious doubts) when I meet up with the latter and also goes against the spirit in which the transaction was concluded last Friday.”

Over the past year Cambodia has seen a sweeping media crackdown and Sen, who is seeking reelection in July, has taken steps to silence political opposition and media dissent.

Journalists have reportedly been followed by secret police, 32 radio stations have been closed, an Australian filmmaker was jailed for “spying on the government,” and in October Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved an opposition party and jailed its leader for treason.

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