Washington, D.C. — Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Radio Free Asia is making available online a recently banned documentary film about the murder of a prominent Cambodian rainforest activist. The makers of “I Am Chut Wutty” have agreed to allow RFA to post the Cambodian language film on its RFA Khmer website in perpetuity starting Tuesday (April 26).
RFA will also post an English subtitled version for a 24-hour period on Tuesday. Cambodia’s government last week refused to grant a license for a screening of the film in Phnom Penh, effectively issuing a ban on its public release.
World Press Freedom Day is on May 3.
“Chut Wutty’s life was cut short, but his legacy of fighting to protect Cambodia’s rainforests lives on,” RFA President Libby Liu said. “Cambodian authorities’ decision to deny a public screening of this documentary about him and the ongoing struggle only reinforces its relevance. We are proud to make ‘I Am Chut Wutty’ available online to RFA’s audiences and hope this guarantees its largest possible viewing.”
Coming four years after the death of community activist Chut Wutty, who was slain in April 2012, the documentary focuses on the longstanding struggle to stop the practice of illegal logging in Cambodia. Wutty had led a group of activists determined to investigate and halt corrupt logging syndicates, which often have ties to the Cambodian military. The rate of deforestation in Cambodia is among the highest in the world, and the devastation to one of Southeast Asia’s last remaining wilderness is costly to native indigenous communities who rely on the rainforest’s health for their daily livelihoods. The film, directed and produced by Fran Lambrick, features exclusive footage with Wutty in the final months before his death at the hands of a military police officer.
RFA’s Khmer Service has closely covered Cambodia’s illegal logging trade, which reaps huge profits at the expense of the country’s natural resources. Though Cambodia’s government has repeatedly claimed to crack down on corrupt deforestation, overwhelming evidence persists of this widespread practice. Environmental defenders and communities have struggled to bring attention to the rampant rate at which Cambodia’s rainforest is being cut down. The trade has also been tied closely to government corruption. RFA’s reports also reveal how land concessions have been used as a cover for illegal logging, often as a result of collusion between timber companies and government officials.
Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in 9 East Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. RFA’s broadcasts seek to promote the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” RFA is funded by an annual grant from USAGM.
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