Phnom Penh Post sold and editor-in-chief sacked

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Anant Baliga, a co-author of the article exposing the links of the new Chief Executive Sivakumar Ganapth to Cambodia's strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen, announced his resignation in a tweet.

Intervention in the paper's editorial decision-making came nearly immediately after the sale was announced. In the story, it was said that Ganapathy has links with the Malaysian government as well, and that he had written a biography, titled Taib - the Visionary, of Sarawak state's Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, according to SCMP.

"The recent times have been a challenge, as the worldwide decline in market share for newspaper advertising has also been felt here in Cambodia", he said in the statement. The Post itself had owed $3.9 million in taxes, but that bill was settled as part of the sale, The Post reported.

That second blow to the paper's independence came quickly.

"They fired me", the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Kay Kimsong, told Reuters, adding the reason was a report the newspaper published about the sale.

Phnom Penh Post editor-in-chief Kay Kimsong (centre) gestures while newspaper staff applauds from their Phnom Penh office today.

"The Supreme Court upheld the Appeal Court's decision", said lawyer Pheng Heng.

Critics said the loss of an independent press would have profound implications in Cambodia, a country that suffered under the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Mr Hun Sen's government has taken a hammer to the fragile democracy's once-vibrant media scene over the past year, leaving the Post as one of few remaining watchdogs in the graft-riddled country.

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"With or without the sale, press freedom in Cambodia is close to nonexistent", said Kem Monovithya, the opposition party's deputy director general of public affairs and the daughter of its leader, Kem Sokha, who was detained in September and accused of plotting a US-funded coup - a charge he denies.

In the previous year the Cambodian government closed The Cambodia Daily and dissolved the main opposition party in a wide-ranging crackdown.

Cambodia has elections in July. Latest victim of him is the last independent newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, which has been purchased by a business associate of the dictator.

This "cannot be concluded based on what happened between the firm and the client more than 25 years ago", the statement said.

"Now China is its main patron and they have no such interests", he said.

A counter statement was then released by Sivakumar, where he called the Post's editorial a "disgrace that "borders on internal sabotage" and expressed 'serious doubts" about the calibre of journalists at the paper.

The new owner is Malaysian investor Sivakumar Ganapathy, an executive director at Asia Public Relations Consultants Sdn Bhd, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. Under government-related projects on the company's website it lists "Cambodia and Hun Sen's entry into the Government seat". "I think the odds are greater than 50/50 the paper's coverage will change - and for the worse", he said.

Following in the footsteps soon after, was The Post's former publisher Marcus Holmes, managing editor Stuart White, web editor Jenni Reid and senior editor Michael Dickison.

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