“It’s our livelihood, our mission and our passion to put out the news, but it’s a small part of what’s going on in Cambodia today,” said Jodie DeJonge, The Daily’s editor in chief. “They are trying to shut down all independent voices.”
In recent weeks, the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered at least 15 radio stations to close or stop broadcasting programming from the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. The government also ordered the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy, nonprofit organization tied to the Democratic Party of the United States.
Since its founding in 1993, the widely respected newspaper has been an incubator for a generation of young Cambodian and foreign journalists, and it has served as an independent voice in a country with little tradition of free expression.
Its motto: “All the News Without Fear or Favor.”
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to hear that The Daily is this close to its last edition,” said Chris Decherd, a former Daily editor in chief who is now editor of Voice of America’s Khmer Service.
Among The Daily’s alumni are journalists working at major outlets around the world, including The Associated Press, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Top Cambodian journalists, including many now employed at international news agencies in the country, got their start at The Daily.
“It was an experience that changed the way I see and live in the world,” said Robin McDowell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The A.P. who arrived as a relatively inexperienced reporter at 27 to help start the paper. “It launched my own career and — over the years — that of many other foreigners. Most importantly, though, it was training ground for a generation of local reporters.”
The crackdown on free expression and foreign influence appears to be part of the government’s preparations for an election next July that it has no intention of losing.