A newspaper hailed as Cambodia’s last independent English-language daily has been sold by its Australian publisher to a Malaysian investor, rattling a journalist community battered by Cambodia’s authoritarian prime minister ahead of elections.
Bill Clough, the chairman of the 26-year-old Phnom Penh Post, said in a statement on Saturday that the paper had been purchased by a Malaysian investor identified solely as “Sivakumar G.”
The statement, which did not disclose the price of the sale, described the new owner as a “well-respected newspaper man” who has an “experienced journalist background, and represents a strong investment group from Malaysia.”
The new owner said in a statement that he was committed to upholding the newspaper’s legacy, but would also review its operations to “enhance” financial and editorial independence.
The sale, which caught staff by surprise, swiftly raised concerns about a contracting space for independent media in a country that lost its other main English-language newspaper last year.
The Post’s chief rival, the Cambodia Daily, was forced to shut in August last year after it was handed an unpayable tax bill — the same day Cambodian authorities arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges.
Both events came amid a sweeping government crackdown on independent media, non-governmental organizations and rival politicians ahead of July polls that strongman Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is determined to win.
“The Post is really the last remaining newspaper that comes out every day and does long investigations on corruption, illegal logging and politics,” said Abby Seiff, a Cambodia-based freelance journalist and former Phnom Penh Post editor.
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