PHNOM PENH – The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia is dismayed with the sudden closure of The Cambodia Daily.
Cambodia has often been praised for its vibrant press, with two English publications and several Khmer-language ones going about the often messy business of battling for public ideas.
Taken together with the silencing of 19 radio stations, the forced closing of the American-backed National Democratic Institute, the expelling of NDI staff, and the midnight arrest of an opposition leader, there are grave concerns for the media and political landscapes as the 2018 national election approaches.
With the shuttering of the Daily, the Kingdom lost a significant aspect of its media diversity. It lost a training ground for a generation of Khmer journalists. It lost a beacon of free speech, one the country often carried with pride around the region. It lost a champion of free expression, one that pressed issues of corruption and human rights, without fear or favor. It lost its most prolific chronicler of current affairs, a paper whose 24 years of daily editions will long serve as a first draft to modern Cambodian history.
The Daily was handed a $6.3 million tax bill with a month to pay.
By all accounts, The Daily had been unprofitable for nearly a decade. It survived only because of the journalists who worked there — often times at personal risk — and their unyielding commitment to truth-telling.
Many of the staff of the Cambodia Daily were also members of the OPCC. We are proud to call them colleagues.