Back Stories » Asia » After 24 Years in Operation, English-Language Newspaper Cambodia Daily Closed on September 4

Cambodia's leading English-language newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, closed on September 4 after 24 years in service.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, the Daily said it was “under siege” as the government attacked the local media outlet. Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, ordered the Phnom Penh-based newspaper Cambodia Daily to pay US$6.3 million in alleged back taxes by September 4 or face being shut down.

The newspaper wrote in a press release just before the deadline two weeks ago: "As a result of extra-legal threats by the government to close the Daily, freeze its accounts and prosecute the new owner for the actions of the previous owner, The Bernard Krisher Jimusho Co. is unable to operate The Cambodia Daily newspaper and it will cease publication as of September 4, 2017."

"On Monday, the Daily’s service to the Cambodian people will end. We want to thank our advertisers and subscribers who supported freedom of the press for so long, and our staff, who have fought fiercely and courageously to report All the News Without Fear or Favor," the announcement reads.

Deborah Krisher-Steele, daughter of the Daily's founder, Bernard Krisher, told the Post in an email when news of the allegation broke: “There is no doubt that there is a political will behind these actions. This is clearly a tax bill that is not meant to be paid but whose purpose is to close down the Cambodia Daily.” She also said that the US$6.3 million figure was arbitrary and not rooted in any audit.

Hun Sen has rebutted this claim publicly, according to the news source: “The thief has not paid tax to the government for 10 years. Since its launch, it has not paid tax.”

“If you want to stay longer, pay tax to the government,” he said. “If [you] don’t pay tax to the government, pack up and go. Be clear that it is not a political motive.”

Sen’s view is enthusiastically backed by Fresh News, a publication commonly known as the government’s mouthpiece. The Post said that Fresh News has published a series of heated articles claiming that various journalists, NGO leaders and US Embassy staff are planning to overthrow the government. Critics suspect that taxing the Daily is part of a larger plan to silence publications that criticize the prime minister and his policies.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that during the past week, “the Cambodian government announced the expulsion of the nongovernmental, US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), threatened to close the independent nonpartisan daily newspaper the Cambodia Daily, and forcibly ended broadcasts by the stations operated by Mohanokor Radio, which is owned by an opposition member of parliament, and stations operated by Voice of Democracy (VOD) Phnom Penh, which airs independent reports and viewpoints.”

These events have garnered prominent international attention. The New York Times interviewed the Daily’s editor-in-chief, Jodie DeJonge, who remains committed to her work: “There is still a free press in Cambodia, and we are going to rely on that until they come and put yellow tape around the building.”

[Photo via Facebook user U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, Cambodia]

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