The entire staff of Cambodge Soir, the long-running French-language newspaper published six times a week, went on strike Monday, June 11th, after the firing of a colleague. The rest of the staff felt that the firing was unjustified and that the reasons given for the firing were vague. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that this firing was the result of the publication of excerpts of the recent Global Witness report.
This Global Witness report slammed the Cambodian government on their wholesale and illegal destruction of the Cambodian forests; previously the official monitor of Cambodia’s forestry reform program, Global Witness proved less pliable than the government wished, and a few years ago they were replaced by a much less aggressive organization.
This report, which I blogged about here, so angered and threatened members of the current government that the entirety of the report was banned, without any apparent legal justification. Even excerpts were forbidden.
Cambodge Soir, published excerpts from the report anyway, in an example of editorial independence and public service that deserves support. However, immediately upon the publication of that issue, the publishers fired a staff member, apparently in retaliation. The next day, the editorial staff went on strike in protest. The publisher’s response was to immediately shut down the newspaper, putting the jobs of over thirty dedicated reporters, editors, and other staff in jeopardy.
Cambodge Soir has been a moderate and relatively progressive voice in Cambodia, with an impact on the political and cultural landscape beyond its limited readership in this former French colony.
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the move. But we would do well to note that this is a blow to both the Cambodian commons and to Cambodian workers. It is a blow -again- to the commons which the vast majority of Cambodians still rely on for their daily sustenance. Without the forests, Cambodian farmers, who make up approximately 85% of the population, will be unable to feed themselves and their families without increasingly taking on debt they are unlikely to be able to repay.
It is also a blow against the freedom of the press in Cambodia, which has historically had a better situation than that in its mainland neighbors.
And finally, it is a direct blow at the dedicated workers of the Cambodge Soir and the entire news industry in Cambodia, where the jobs of workers are placed at the whim of governments and foreign publishers, acting in collusion.
Read the communiqué from the Editorial Staff of the Cambodge Soir here.
*Note: this story has been updated in-text since it’s original publication.
UPDATE: MANY NEW STORIES