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17 Journalists Quit Beleaguered French Paper

Seventeen reporters and translators Thursday officially quit Cambodge Soir, an independent French-language newspaper that has struggled in recent months due to financial troubles and the sacking of an editor.

The group had been on strike since the June 10 firing of editor Soren Seelow for publishing a story about corruption and illegal logging based on the findings of forestry monitor Global Witness.

The story followed a Global Witness report that blamed a Cambodian "kleptocratic elite," tied to Prime Minister Hun Sen, for wholesale destruction of the country's forests. The government banned the report.

On June 12 Cambodge Soir closed down, its management citing financial difficulties.

Cambodge Soir's attempt to print a detailed story on the report upset some of the paper's owners, including minority shareholder Philippe Monin, Reporter's Without Borders said last month, as it appealed to keep the paper open.

Monin was also an employee of the French Development Agency and is an adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture, the group said.

The loss of 17 journalists will make recovery difficult the 12-year-old news source.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday he "regretted" the closing of Cambodia's "most professional" newspaper. "It is the journalists' right to quit," he added.