The last independent newspaper in Cambodia has been sold to a new owner from Malaysia, according to a statement issued on Saturday by the publisher.
Post Media Ltd, the publisher of the Phnom Penh Post and Post Khmer Publications, said the company has been sold to a Malaysian investor named Sivakumar G.
The Phnom Penh Post began publishing in 1992, producing a fortnightly edition overseen by the American journalist Michael Hayes. It was sold in 2008 to Bill Clough, an Australian mining magnate.
In the statement, Clough said that although the past 10 years had been a wonderful experience, recent times had been a challenge as the worldwide decline in newspapers’ advertising market share was also felt in Cambodia.
But Clough also indicated the political atmosphere in Cambodia, where the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has launched a crackdown on opposition ahead of a general election in July, also played a factor in the sale.
“This region is full of turbulence and the recent changes within Cambodia ahead of, leading up to, the upcoming election, has put a spotlight on the Phnom Penh Post, as the last truly independent media group in the country,” the statement said.
It also quoted Clough as saying “there have been rumours flying in all directions with questions about our ongoing survival, which we hope that now we can finally dispel”.
It has been rumoured since early this year that the Phnom Penh Post had been issued with a bill for nearly $4 million in back taxes. The Cambodia Daily filed for bankruptcy and shut down last September after being ordered to pay $6.3 million in back taxes.
On Wednesday, Reporters Without Border issued a statement saying Cambodia has dropped 10 places in the World Press Freedom Index, from 132 last year to 142 this year out of 180 countries.