Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered tax officials to investigate media outlets failing to pay their taxes.
“It is a problem when you criticise the government on some certain issues but at the same time you do not pay tax,” Mr Hun Sen said during a council of ministers meeting on Friday.
Mr Hun Sen did not specify which media outlets have failed to pay tax but he noted they were critical newspapers.
“Your newspapers make a lot of money from advertising, so why do you not pay tax?” he said. “I do not use the tax law as a political pretext, this is just a matter of implementing the taxation law.
“As far as I know some newspapers have operated in Cambodia for nearly 20 years and they did not pay tax, even a signal cent,” he added. “So it is now time for the tax collectors to look into this case and put the law in place.”
CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith posted on his Facebook page that he supported Mr Hun Sen’s comments.
Mr Chanrith added that The Cambodia Daily is one paper that had not been paying taxes and should make sure it does so going forward.
According to a tax department document obtained by the Khmer Times yesterday, The Cambodia Daily has been notified that it owes $6.1 million in tax for the years 2007 to 2016. The notice has given the paper 30 days to respond.
Ouk Kimseng, spokesman for the Minister of Information, said he was aware of the case.
“Freedom of the press has been promoted and maintained nationwide for the sake of Cambodia’s democracy, but obligatory tax payments are required and subjected to all media companies,” Mr Kimseng said.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia, said the government is using the taxation law to target a critical paper.
The Cambodia Daily general manager Douglas Steele could not be reached for comment.
Deborah Krisher-Steele, the paper’s current owner, issued the following statement: “Bernard Krisher launched The Cambodia Daily as a non-profit project… and did not register as a private company. As publisher, Mr Krisher, took no salary and because the newspaper made no profit, it was subsidised by Mr Krisher where the funds were lacking. As Mr Krisher can no longer subsidise the paper, in April this year, he sold it to Bernard Krisher Jimusho Co. Ltd., a Cambodian company established by Deborah Krisher-Steele, his daughter. She intends to run this paper as an ordinary company.”