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New owner at Phnom Penh Post ‘does not accept truth’ as chaos reigns at English language daily

The Phnom Penh Post has lost all its foreign reporters and editors following another day of turmoil at the newspaper since its controversial sale to a Malaysian businessman with links to the Cambodian Government.

At least 12 staff have walked out after editor-in-chief, Kay Kimsong, was fired amid acrimony at the English language daily.

Kimsong is understood to have been sacked as a direct result of the front page story covering the sale which carried the headline Turbulent Post handover.

Kimsong later said the new owner “does not accept the truth”.

In days of chaos at the Post several staff walked out in protest after Kmsonh’s dismissal with several other following soon after.

Journalists at the Post, and commentators in the region, fear the takeover by someone with links to Prime Minister Hun Sen spells the death knell for independent journalism at the Post and in Cambodia more widely.

A lawyer acting for new owner Sivakumar Ganaphty, Ly Tayseng, is reported to have said Kimsong’s dismissal was a “business matter” as a result of the newspaper losing money. A new editor-in-chief, Joshua Purushotman was immediately installed.

All stories must now be approved by Purushotman who, on his LinkedIn profile, said he has “moved from public relations back to journalism”.

Kimsong said after his dismissal: “I am happy for running the front page today. I think that is what the profession of journalism is all about – their job is telling the truth. The owner does not accept the truth.”

In a statement released earlier this week, current and former staff condemned the new owner’s demand to take down the story of the takeover

“Our article was written in an attempt to maintain the transparency and integrity of our paper,” they said. “Representatives of the new owners arrived today and ordered that staff remove the article from our website. They did not cite any specific factual inaccuracies. as a direct result, they also fired our editor-in-chief.”

The statement expressed “our disgust for this decision made in contradiction to the values of a free press”.

Among those to quit were managing editor Stuart White, digital director Jodie DeJonge, business editor Brendan O’Byrne senior journalist Ananth Baliga and wed editor Jenni Reid.

Another who later resigned, Erin Handley, tweeted how there are now no overseas editorial staff at the Post.

Another journalist tweeted that the new editor-in-chief “asked staff what to do this morning in order to put out English language edition.”

Both Tayseng and Purushotman told staff the story covering the sale “damages our reputation” and contained inaccuracies. They declined to specify what those inaccuracies were.

They also insisted the Post would neither be pro or anti-government.

Cambodia has elections in July.

The new owner, who bought the business from Australian publisher Bill Clough, is said to own a PR firm called Asia PR which has previously done work for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A statement issued by Ganapthy said he intends to maintain the Post’s independence.

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