Cambodge Soir Shut Down After Twelve Years

The staff of French-language news­paper Cambodge Soir said Wednesday the paper had been shut down following a two-day strike over the firing of a reporter who wrote an article about the new Global Witness report that was deem­ed unfair to the government.

In a statement Wednesday, the newspaper’s editorial staff said the paper, a 12-year-old fixture of the Cambodian press, had been closed permanently by its parent company Societe des Editions du Mekong, which claimed to be bankrupt.

“It started with an article on the Global Witness report with a theme judged too critical toward the government,” editor-in-chief Stephanie Gee said by telephone.

The firing of the reporter was the cause of a strike by Cam­bodge Soir staff that began Mon­day, the editorial staff said in the statement.

“On Tuesday night, the director verbally announced the ad­mini­strative council’s decision to close down the Societe des Edi­tions du Me­kong, which publishes Cam­bodge Soir,” the statement added.

News of the closure came as a sur­prise, according to the statement, which also called the re­porter’s firing “illegal.”

“This verbal decision was allegedly due to bankruptcy,” it added.

Philippe Monnin, the director of Societe des Editions du Me­kong, which employs 30 people, declined to comment Wednes­day.

On Tuesday he said of the striking reporters and editors: “They don’t have the same way of perceiving the development of the country.”

Members of the newspaper’s editorial staff asked that the name of the reporter who wrote the Global Witness article not be made public. Contacted by telephone, the reporter declined comment.

In the full-page article published Friday, June 1, Cambodge Soir pro­vid­ed a detailed summary of the Global Witness report “Cambodia’s Family Trees,” which accused an al­legedly “kleptocratic elite,” including Agricul­ture Minister Chan Sa­run, of strip­ping the country of its for­ests. The government has strong­ly denied the report’s allegations.

Though the article contained no response from Cambodian officials, the newspaper printed a lengthy response from Chan Sarun on June 4, the following Monday.

Gee also claimed that a member of the five-person board of Cambod­ge Soir’s holding company, whom she declined to name, has a professional relationship with the Agricul­ture Ministry. However, she said she did not believe the government had exerted pressure on the board of directors to fire the reporter.

“We do not believe there was pressure from the authorities,” Gee said.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith could not be reached Wed­nes­day.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said he was unaware that anyone in his ministry was linked with Cambodge Soir, adding that there had been no pressure on the paper to fire the reporter.

(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)


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