Sale of Phnom Penh Post heralds end of independent press in Cambodia

Cambodia’s leading English-language daily, Phnom Penh Post, has been sold by its Australian owner to a Malaysian public relations firm, a move that triggered head scratching among media industry observers in the country.

Post Media CEO Bill Clough announced that the paper is now owned by Sivakumar S Ganapathy,, managing director of Asia PR, which provides what it calls “covert PR” and lists among its work for governments and politicians also Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Phnom Penh Post, considered Cambodia’s last independent media outlet, has been published since 1992 as the most influential English-language paper in the country, being under constant spotlight of the administration for its critical stance towards the government and reports about corruption, alleged human rights violations and the silencing of Hun Sen’s opponents.

The sale comes amid a crackdown on critical media and opposition politicians by the Cambodian prime minister, who has been in power since 1985 and is seeking re-election at the general elections this July.

The Post’s main English-language rival, the Cambodia Daily, shut its doors last year after being presented with an onerous tax bill, an action that many believe was politically motivated. The Phnom Penh Post was also slapped with a tax bill amounting to $3.9-million, but its former owner said the issue had been sorted.

But doubts remain about the business rationale of the sale.

“From the outside looking in, the most troubling thing is the timing of the tax bill’s settlement and the Post’s subsequent sale,” the paper’s former editor-in-chief Chad Williams, told Reuters.

“The odds of them not being connected seem incredibly remote,” he added, alleging that Cambodian government may have used the threat of a shutdown to essentially coerce the sale and silence the paper.

However, in a statement to Reuters, Sivakumar G said he would “uphold the newspaper’s legacy and independence.” An official of Cambodia’s interior ministry denied the accusation about the sale of Phnom Penh Post and said it was “normal business.”

A third English-language newspaper in Cambodia, Khmer Times, founded in 2014 is also owned by a Malaysian businessman, T Mohan, who is reportedly close to Hun Manith, a major general in the army, director of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence unit and second son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as to casino tycoon Chen Lip Keong, CEO of NagaCorp Ltd., the largest hotel, gaming and leisure operator in Cambodia with close ties to the ruling elite.

Update: On May 7, the Phnom Penh Post’s editor-in-chief, Kay Kimsong, was fired by a representative of the new owner. Five senior staff members – managing editor Stuart White, digital director Jodie DeJonge, web editor Jenni Reid, business editor Brendan O’Byrne and senior journalist Ananth Baliga – resigned in protest, as well as CEO Marcus Holmes.

Joshua Purushotman, a Malaysian public relations executive, was installed as new chief editor of the paper.

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Cambodia’s leading English-language daily, Phnom Penh Post, has been sold by its Australian owner to a Malaysian public relations firm, a move that triggered head scratching among media industry observers in the country.

Cambodia’s leading English-language daily, Phnom Penh Post, has been sold by its Australian owner to a Malaysian public relations firm, a move that triggered head scratching among media industry observers in the country.

Post Media CEO Bill Clough announced that the paper is now owned by Sivakumar S Ganapathy,, managing director of Asia PR, which provides what it calls “covert PR” and lists among its work for governments and politicians also Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Phnom Penh Post, considered Cambodia’s last independent media outlet, has been published since 1992 as the most influential English-language paper in the country, being under constant spotlight of the administration for its critical stance towards the government and reports about corruption, alleged human rights violations and the silencing of Hun Sen’s opponents.

The sale comes amid a crackdown on critical media and opposition politicians by the Cambodian prime minister, who has been in power since 1985 and is seeking re-election at the general elections this July.

The Post’s main English-language rival, the Cambodia Daily, shut its doors last year after being presented with an onerous tax bill, an action that many believe was politically motivated. The Phnom Penh Post was also slapped with a tax bill amounting to $3.9-million, but its former owner said the issue had been sorted.

But doubts remain about the business rationale of the sale.

“From the outside looking in, the most troubling thing is the timing of the tax bill’s settlement and the Post’s subsequent sale,” the paper’s former editor-in-chief Chad Williams, told Reuters.

“The odds of them not being connected seem incredibly remote,” he added, alleging that Cambodian government may have used the threat of a shutdown to essentially coerce the sale and silence the paper.

However, in a statement to Reuters, Sivakumar G said he would “uphold the newspaper’s legacy and independence.” An official of Cambodia’s interior ministry denied the accusation about the sale of Phnom Penh Post and said it was “normal business.”

A third English-language newspaper in Cambodia, Khmer Times, founded in 2014 is also owned by a Malaysian businessman, T Mohan, who is reportedly close to Hun Manith, a major general in the army, director of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence unit and second son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as to casino tycoon Chen Lip Keong, CEO of NagaCorp Ltd., the largest hotel, gaming and leisure operator in Cambodia with close ties to the ruling elite.

Update: On May 7, the Phnom Penh Post’s editor-in-chief, Kay Kimsong, was fired by a representative of the new owner. Five senior staff members – managing editor Stuart White, digital director Jodie DeJonge, web editor Jenni Reid, business editor Brendan O’Byrne and senior journalist Ananth Baliga – resigned in protest, as well as CEO Marcus Holmes.

Joshua Purushotman, a Malaysian public relations executive, was installed as new chief editor of the paper.

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