Cambodia Shut Our Paper Down. Don’t Let Trump Do That

Having served its readers for 24 years, The Cambodia Daily published its last issue on Monday after the government presented the paper with an ultimatum: pay an enormous tax bill or shut down. Two reporters tell Newsweek what the paper meant to them and to a country whose democratic institutions are under threat.​

Leng Len covered social justice and labor migration. She wrote one of the paper’s last cover stories, titled “Maid Home After 12 Years ‘Stranded’ in Saudi”.

Today was my last day of reporting for The Cambodia Daily, after working there for a little more than a month.

After I heard about the arrest of the opposition leader Kem Sokha in the early hours of Sunday morning (about 12.30am), I found myself unable to fall asleep. In my few weeks working with the Daily, I had been completely imbued with a fearlessness that is characteristic of my fellow journalists and mentors who have been working there for years.

Braving a mild fever and lack of sleep, I went out to the National Police headquarters and covered the breaking story of the arrest. I stood outside for an hour, making several phone calls to the authorities and opposition leaders, and several failed attempts at getting the police security guard to answer my questions.

My colleagues and I worked through the night to fact-check and gather more information about the arrest, well aware of the gravity of the situation, and the urgent necessity of informing the public about this. It was Saturday night, but we told ourselves: “Let’s not sleep, we gotta do the story.”

A vendor prepares a stack of the final issue of The Cambodia Daily newspaper at her store for sale along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 4, 2017. Samrang Pring/Reuters

I feel completely empty and devastated to lose the chance to continue exercising the journalism skills I learned at journalism school. To me and to the readers, who are NGO workers, artists, private sector employees and the students who read English, the loss of the paper is a big one, the loss of an independent fact-checker.

I normally talked to underprivileged people, like Cambodian migrant workers who are in Thailand facing having no access to legal work documents. Every conversation I had with them made me think of “Bringing voice to the voiceless,” my goal as a reporter.

The information we reported to the public will now be missing. How else will people in rural areas, academics, students and business people access…

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