Executives at the defunct French-language daily newspaper Cambodge Soir have proposed returning to publication with a new editorial team under the strict control of the parent company’s board of directors.
The paper has not been printed since June 11, when a labor dispute erupted over the dismissal of a reporter.
Executives unveiled the proposal at a July 25 meeting with staff, who announced their collective resignation earlier this month.
Laurent Le Gouvanic, formerly in charge of layout, said Tuesday the proposal represented a step backward.
“We started the strike for the reinstatement of a reporter fired totally illegally,” he said, adding that all five of the paper’s French ex-staffers and three Cambodians had refused to continue negotiating.
“We can’t return to work in a situation that is worse than before,” he said.
A draft employee code of conduct obtained Tuesday places editorial staff under the direct control of management.
“The editorial line of Cambodge Soir is initiated by the [board of directors],” it states, adding that the “publishing director,” a newly-created position, may intervene “if he judges that the content of Cambodge Soir strays from its editorial line.”
The draft rules also call for the editor-in-chief to provide executives with a daily written summary of the news lineup.
“The publishing director may reorient the summary if he feels it does not correspond to the editorial line,” it states. “In case of disagreement, the [board of directors] alone can arbitrate.”
Reporters’ notes can be reviewed “at any moment” by the publishing director, according to the draft.
Kong Rithy Chup, a local business tycoon and current member of the paper’s board who has been nominated for the new publishing director position, maintained that Cambodge Soir would remain independent.
“It will surely be an independent newspaper as Cambodge Soir was before,” he said, adding that the paper plans to recommence publishing a weekly print version in September with daily updates on its Web site.
Independent journalism trainer Moeun Chhean Nariddh said the paper’s proposed structure risked damaging its credibility.
“They should have a clear division between the management side and the editorial side,” he said. “If a newspaper has to follow an editorial line, it can become a party newspaper.”