MIKE Fowler was a great friend of The Phnom Penh Post over many years. He passed away, unexpectedly, from heart failure in New Hampshire in the US last week, and he will be sorely missed by his family and friends.
Mike was one of the Post's unofficial legal advisers on more than a dozen occasions going back more years than I can remember. He never once asked for any payment, public acknowledgement or even a few barter coupons that I would regularly offer as compensation to those who contributed to the paper.
He never even once hinted that I owed him some kind of favour in return. He knew how cash-strapped the paper was; he knew how difficult it was to keep a good newspaper afloat in Cambodia; he knew how lacking my knowledge was in the legal subtleties surrounding the printed word; and, he knew my goal was to publish one of the most responsible, credible and respected papers in the world.
Given all this, Mike was happy and, I believe, even honoured to contribute his legal expertise and moral support whenever I would humbly (and desperately) seek his advice.
Thanks to the miracle of email since Mike's first stint in Cambodia in the late 1990s, I scrambled to get in touch with him wherever he was, all over the planet: Egypt, India, the US and Bulgaria. He always responded without the slightest hesitation. If he was busy with his own work, he'd get back to me as soon as possible, often late at night, sending me his legal and journalistic advice and analysis, pointing out the various options and the possible costs and benefits of each.
When the Post was sued by a senior Cambodian minister, Mike readily offered to get involved. When the bells went off in considering whether to publish a letter or article that might be libelous, Mike was there. When I was considering the possibility of taking on an investor or selling outright, Mike generously offered to review draft documents and help me assess the potential pitfalls.
Few people ever knew about the role Mike Fowler played in helping the Post. He was never looking for glory or fame. He just wanted to lend a hand to a paper and an editorial team that he respected and admired.
The free press in Cambodia and around the world has lost a devoted and unselfish friend.
Thank you, Mike. Thanks for your help and unwavering support, and thank you for your commitment to an independent press in Cambodia.