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One of Cambodia's last English language newspapers has ceased publication

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

One of Cambodia's last English language newspapers, the Phnom Penh Post, has ceased publication. The last paper edition was published on Friday. Management blamed soaring costs and the subsequent economic downturn that followed the COVID pandemic. Michael Sullivan reports from neighboring Thailand.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The Phnom Penh Post started publishing 32 years ago during a U.N.-backed transition to democracy after a brutal civil war and the horror of the Khmer Rouge. Both the Post and The Cambodia Daily, which started a year later, were dogged in their pursuit of stories about the aftermath of the war, endemic corruption and Cambodia's convoluted, cutthroat politics. And both lent a voice to ordinary Cambodians in the desperately poor, war-weary nation.

MAY TITTHARA: We still remember and we still love our memory to work at the Post.

SULLIVAN: Former Post reporter May Titthara.

TITTHARA: We have our full right to write the story whatever we want, and we are not interfered by our publisher or our businessmen. So during that time, Phnom Penh Post had produced a lot of investigative story and, we feel like, making different from other newspapers.

SULLIVAN: But the paper struggled financially for much of its life, and in May 2018, it was sold to government-friendly Malaysian investors at a time when authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen was squeezing both independent media and the political opposition. The Cambodia Daily was the first to go after being presented with a whopping and spurious tax bill. A similar bill hastened the Post's demise, and Hun Sen's crackdown on dissent continued.

One of the last independent media outlets, the Voice of Democracy, was forced to close before last year's general election, an election won by Hun Sen's ruling party in a landslide after the only credible opposition party was disbanded - its leader in prison. Hun Sen has since stepped down as prime minister, handing power to his son, Hun Manet. Though just this week, Hun Sen was elected leader of the Senate. The Post was no longer around to report it.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAPES' "MALUMA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.

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