Cambodia English language newspaper closed down for political reasons

Published:  4 Sep at 6 PM
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Expats in Cambodia are mourning the politically motivated loss of the English language Cambodia Daily newspaper.

The demise of the Cambodia Daily comes after 24 years of publishing English language news, views and opinions aimed at the country’s expat community. As with many such media outlets, it was never a financial success but spurned fake news and became much-loved for its service to the foreign community in Cambodia. The country’s ruler, PM Hun Sen, isn’t known as a fan of either freedom of the press or free speech in general, and is suspected of managing the paper’s shutdown by means of a massive surprise tax bill totalling $6.3 million and unable to be met by the paper’s owners.

The Cambodia Daily’s original reason for existence was as an NGO training up wannabe Khmer journalists and teaching them the tools of the trade. Visiting Western staff helped the project along, often learning a great deal themselves as a result of working with passionate young locals eager to get the news out no matter what. Truth was told, mostly delicately in order to avoid problems with the government, and Khmer culture was introduced to an ever-growing community of resident expats.

Reports of its closure came as a shock to the country’s expat community, with many attributing it to the country’s leader deciding to back China’s rising power rather than stay connected with Trump’s America, which seems to have ignored Southeast Asia since the presidential election result. Others see Trump’s attacks on the US press as an example now followed by Hun Sen, who gushingly endorsed the candidate in the weeks before the actual election and admired his post-election disdain for the US media.

In these uncertain days, expats all over the world need their English language media even more. Locally and internationally inspired news and articles give a perspective unavailable elsewhere, and help expatriates make sense of world events as they relate to their chosen country of residence. English language newspapers also inform about local events as well as locally related and visa issues important to expatriate communities. Perhaps most crucially, these media outlets celebrate freedom of speech and human rights, making them vulnerable to action by leaders eager to suppress their views by accusing them of publishing fake news.

It’s not just the Trump presidency which is denigrating the efforts of journalists to inform the general public on important issues and developments, as it’s becoming more common in developing countries ruled by politicians who see themselves as dictators.
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