The Phnom Penh Post’s editor in chief has been fired and the chief executive along with the entire editorial staff and reporters have resigned after they refused to remove an article about the newspaper’s new owner from its website.
“We are now down to zero editors,” according to a May 7 tweet from Phnom Penh Post arts and culture writer E. Quinn Libson.
We are now down to zero editors. Our last woman standing, @jdejonge, was deleted from our staff page and locked out of her email as she was penning her resignation letter. Once again, you should read this while it's still up: https://t.co/m5XSi95oeE
— E. Quinn Libson (@quinnlibson) May 7, 2018
The daily Cambodia paper was this week sold to Sivakumar Ganapathy, a Malaysian investor and executive at public relations firm, Asia PR. The company’s website says that it has previously done work for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government. (ABC Australia)
A story on the Phnom Penh Post website said the sale followed a wrongful termination suit brought by a former chief executive and a US$3.9 million tax bill from the government.
The article also said Asia PR’s past clients include “Cambodia and Hun Sen’s entry into the Government seat.”
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief Kay Kimsong was reportedly fired after he refused to take down the news story.
The reporter who wrote the story, Brendan O’Byrne, said on Twitter that he offered his resignation for the same reason.
A reporter and sub editor at the newspaper Erin Handley relayed a statement from managing editor Stuart White on Twitter. White said he resigned after he was then told to take down the article about the sale.
“The Post has always been fiercely protective of its independence and I felt that order was a sign that that might be in jeopardy going forward,” he said in the statement.
She also carried a message from the newspaper’s chief executive Marcus Holmes, who has also resigned.
“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.
Our new editor in chief, who identified himself as Joshua Pureu, will have full editorial approval over all the Post stories from now on. As such, I doubt I’ll be able to write this story for the Post as I usually would. I’ll tweet it instead.
— Erin Handley (@erinahandley) May 7, 2018
Sivakumar said in a press release distributed to staff on Saturday that he intended to maintain the newspaper’s editorial independence.
He also released a statement outlining the issues with the article that “smelled of malice” and the journalists who were “careless and vicious in their reporting.”
There has been a recent crackdown on independent media ahead of the general election in July.
Hun Sen, the longest serving prime minister in the world and a former Khmer Rouge officer, has moved against political rivals, a free press (Cambodia Daily) and NGOs (Global Witness) in the lead-up to national elections in July 2018. Few doubt his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)will lose.