Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Post senior staff out in dispute over article

Post senior staff out in dispute over article

Kay Kimsong was fired yesterday as editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post. The newspaper’s new management said it was a ‘business decision’.
Kay Kimsong was fired yesterday as editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post. The newspaper’s new management said it was a ‘business decision’. Hong Menea

Post senior staff out in dispute over article

Kay Kimsong, editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post, was fired on Monday by a representative for the newspaper’s new Malaysian owner Sivakumar S Ganapathy, a day after The Post published an article about links between his public relations firm and the Hun Sen government.

Representatives for the paper’s new owners ordered senior staff on Monday to remove from the newspaper’s website what they described as a “damaging” article that they said contained a litany of factual inaccuracies.

Five senior staff members – Managing Editor Stuart White, Digital Director Jodie DeJonge, Web Editor Jenni Reid, Business Editor Brendan O’Byrne and senior journalist Ananth Baliga – resigned in protest, as well as CEO Marcus Holmes.

Afterwards, Kimsong told staffers that Ly Tayseng, a Cambodian lawyer who represents the buyer, told him he had made “a serious mistake” in publishing the article and fired him.

Tayseng also informed staff that Joshua Purushotman would be the new editor in chief of The Post “starting today” and that all articles would be approved by him.

In a meeting with staff, Tayseng and Purushotman defended Kimsong’s firing as a business matter.

“The business is losing money. We have [to] recruit the new editor in chief, and he’s coming to work starting from today. So we don’t have to pay two for the same position,” Tayseng said. “This is just normal business restructuring.”

However, during an internal meeting with senior staff, Purushotman told Post employees that the “article damages our reputation”.

Tayseng and Purushotman also declined offers to discuss the article’s alleged inaccuracies in detail.

Both insisted that paper would neither be pro- or anti-government going forward.

“We’re not pro-government, we’re not anti-government either,” said Tayseng.

The dual-language Phnom Penh Post was founded in 1992. The other independent newspaper in the country, the Cambodia Daily, closed in September last year.

Chad Williams, who served as editor-in-chief of The Post for nearly three years, called it “personally devastating to watch this afternoon’s events unfold from afar” but added that it “pales in comparison to the actual loss it represents for Cambodia”.

Williams noted The Post’s history of reporting on illegal logging, forced evictions and vote rigging.

Moeun Chhean Naridh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said the new owners overstepped journalistic ethics by interfering in editorial affairs.

“As an independent newspaper, editors should be allowed to make decisions,” he said. “The management shouldn’t have been involved.”

Huy Vannak, president of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia and a Ministry of Interior official, declined to comment on what he called The Post’s “internal affairs” but added that Cambodia is “too free” when it comes to press freedom compared to neighbouring countries.

“Both the owners and the editorial team need to understand the direction of the business,” Vannak said.

The effect of the takeover was also felt in the political world. Former CNRP chief Sam Rainsy said he was “even more worried about the upcoming election”. Sam Inn, secretary-general for the Grassroots Democracy Party, which will be competing in July, said the takeover is “not a good development”.

Tearful staff members say goodbye to Kay Kimsong who was fired Monday  as editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post.
Tearful staff members say goodbye to Kay Kimsong who was fired Monday as editor-in-chief of The Phnom Penh Post. Hong Menea

But CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said aggrieved staff should file a complaint against the new owners.

“If [Kimsong] does not file a complaint against them, it means that they have done correctly,” he said.

The mood in the office on Monday was grim, with staff visibly upset as they walked Kimsong out of the office.

Kimsong, who took the helm of the masthead in September after years as the editor of Post Khmer, told staff and reporters outside the office that he made “the right decision”.

“I am happy for running the front page today,” he said. “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.”

Chief of staff Chhay Channyda, a Post employee for 10 years, said she was in shock but would wait to see how the new owners manage the paper.

“I love The Post. I love the environment. I love the colleagues. And I love how free the press is at The Post,” she said.

“It’s been a sad day for me,” she added. “I’ve been here for about ten years to serve one of the country’s independent newspapers. But today The Post is changing. And I don’t know what happens next.”

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Gov’t approves $9B worth of building projects in 2019

    The government has approved more than $9 billion this year for capital investment in the construction sector, a nearly 80 per cent increase on last year, with most of the growth coming from projects in Sihanoukville, according to Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea

  • PP residents urged to use public transport

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has urged Phnom Penh residents to use the capital’s existing public transport services rather than private vehicles, as it is leading to increased traffic congestion. He also called for the city’s public bus system to

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sierra Leone potential new market for export of Cambodian milled rice

    Sierra Leone plans to import milled rice from Cambodia for domestic consumption. The request was made when the visiting Sierra Leone Ambassador to China Ernest Ndomahina met Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak on Wednesday at the ministry. Ndomahina said his country’s agricultural sector