Local Newspaper CEO Congratulates CPP on Election Victory

Chris Dawe, CEO of The Phnom Penh Post, has formally congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP on winning the contested July national election, according to state-owned news website Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP).

In a meeting with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Thursday, “Mr. Chris Dawe extended his sincere congratulations to the Cambodian People’s Party on its victory,” according to a story posted by AKP on Friday.

Mr. Dawe also commended Mr. Kanharith on his reappointment as Information Minister and “affirmed to continue good cooperation with the Ministry of Information in promoting the democracy and the press freedom,” AKP said.

Although the CPP officially won the election with 68 seats to the opposition’s 55, the CNRP has boycotted parliament over what it claims were rampant voting irregularities, and drew tens of thousands of people to mass demonstrations in Phnom Penh last month and last week to demand an independent investigation of the July vote.

Mr. Dawe did not respond to a request for comment. Alan Parkhouse, editor-in-chief at the newspaper, said his CEO is “not involved in the editorial side of the paper.”

“I was not present at the meeting and am not aware of what was discussed,” Mr. Parkhouse said in an email.

While many companies operating in Cambodia seek to maintain amicable relations with the government, Mr. Dawe’s expression of support for the ruling party does his newspaper no favors, said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies.

“For Cambodians, they would not think it is a big issue, because the majority of the press here is pro-government…. But for foreigners who come from Western dem­oc­racies where the media is much more professional and mature, they would wonder why The Phnom Penh Post CEO is congratulating the CPP,” Mr. Chhean Nariddh said.

“I think, for the average readers, they would have the same question, why an independent media [outlet] would send this kind of message to the CPP while the general public believes there were irregularities in the election,” he said.

Last month, a huge cache of leaked emails released by Wikileaks revealed an information-sharing relationship between U.S.-based private intelligence firm Stratfor and dozens of media outlets worldwide, including The Phnom Penh Post.

In a statement accompanying the emails, Wikileaks wrote: “While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organizations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence or­gan­ization that services governments and private clients, these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.”

In an article published on March 6 last year announcing Mr. Dawe’s appointment as CEO, replacing Ramady Moun, Mr. Dawe said his newspaper is “the only independent media player in Cambodia.”

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