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Cambodia’s pioneering post-Khmer Rouge era Phnom Penh Post newspaper will stop print publication

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The Phnom Penh Post, a newspaper founded in 1992 as Cambodia sought to re-establish stability and democracy after decades of war and unrest, said Friday that it will stop publishing in print this month, the latest blow to the country’s dwindling independent media.

The Post was founded as an English-language biweekly in 1992. It later added a Khmer-language edition, and in 2008 began publishing daily.

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It wrote on social media accounts that it would stop publishing both English and Khmer editions by March 29, citing a decline in advertising revenues due to a pandemic-related economic downturn, which added to financial difficulties caused by the spread of social media and other new technology.

Although not mentioned in the announcement, Ly Tayseng, the Post’s current CEO and publisher, confirmed in a text message to The Associated Press that it will continue publishing online.

The government of then-Prime Minister Hun Sen cracked down heavily on independent media in 2017. The Cambodia Daily, a competitor of the Post, was forced to close when it was presented with a huge tax bill which it felt was presented for political reasons.

The Post came under similar political pressure as it also lagged in advertising revenue, and in 2018 was sold by its Australian publisher to a Malaysian investor who was widely seen as acting as a proxy for the interests of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party. Several senior staff resigned and it ceased most of the sort of aggressive independent reporting that had once been its hallmark.

The Post was founded on a shoestring by Americans Michael Hayes and Kathleen O’Keefe as Cambodia with U.N. help, sought to recover from the devastation wrought by the brutal rule of the Khnmer Rouge in the late 1970s. The Khmer Rouge still posed a military threat into the late 1990s, and much of the early coverage focused on that conflict, aided by a multinational staff and freelancers.

Its journalism flourished, in competition from The Cambodia Daily, founded in 1993 and also heavily staffed by young Westerners. Both papers served as a sort of training ground for young journalists early in their careers.

The Post, which was never very profitable, was sold by its founders to an Australia-led media group in 2008. By that time, all independent media was coming under increasing pressure as then-Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodia People’s Party tightened their grip on power and sought to silence most critics. Hun Sen stepped down last year after 38 years as prime minister and was succeeded by his son, Hun Manet.

Last year, one of Cambodia’s few remaining independent media outlets, Voice of Democracy radio, ceased operations after Hun Sen ordered its closure for allegedly slandering his son in a story.

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