Copies of a new, no-holds-barred political magazine named “The Free Press,” were removed from sale by government officials November 2 Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.
The magazine’s first issue, which went on sale November 2, insulted retired King Norodom Sihanouk and violated the law, Khieu Kanharith said.
“It has violated the Constitution and the press law,” he said.
Khieu Kanharith called the magazine’s publisher, Lim Pich Pisey, ill informed and said he was connected with republican supporters of the former Lon Nol regime. Khieu Kanharith, however, stopped short of saying the government would seek to punish Lim Pich Pisey with fines or jail.
“Republicans are always against the monarch. Their views are like Khmer Rouge propaganda,” he said.
Free Press Editor-in-Chief, Nom Dararith, said the owners of the magazine spent $1,000 printing 2,000 copies of the first issue. He said he didn’t care about losing money but wanted to express a point of view. “Our magazine is independent—we do not take sides,” he maintained.
“To ban our publication from the public is to [restrict] press freedom in Cambodia,” he said. Nom Dararith said the first issue provided a broad spectrum of news, including an article on the killing of actress Piseth Pilika.
The magazine’s first edition also took aim at Prime Minister Hun Sen and has many caricature drawings of the premier and includes a poem about Hun Sen, written by seven Cambodians living abroad, called “The Notorious Strong Man.”
Lim Pich Pisey said he took responsibility for the magazine’s content and said he was now worried for the safety of his staff in light of the ban.
“We are disappointed with the authorities who collected our publication from the market. Our articles were professional,” he said.
Officials seized the magazine at newsstands around Phnom Penh as well as Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, he said.