Just as rights activists have turned to the Web to advocate against land grabs, a group of filmmakers are using online capabilities to distribute a film that has been banned from distribution in Cambodia.
“Who Killed Chea Vichea,” which examines the murder of the labor activist in 2004 has been prohibited from distribution in the country. It has also been banned directly from private screenings on a number of occasions.
Now the filmmakers have made it available for free online.
I wrote to Rich Garella, one of the producers, to find out who he hoped would find the movie and watch it.
“People can download it anywhere in the world, unless they live in a country that violates human rights by limiting freedom of expression,” he said in an e-mail. “Governments that are afraid of the truth always have good reason to be afraid of the truth. In blocking the free movement of information they show their true nature.”
The document is an indictment of the judicial process following the attack on Chea Vichea, a hugely popular union leader who was killed in broad daylight in the middle of Phnom Penh. Two men who were widely believed innocent, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, were held in prison for years, despite evidence they should have been exonerated, for the crime.
Government officials, meanwhile, have said the film cannot be imported to Cambodia or screened in the country, in an attempt to keep the public from viewing a film that would embarrass the police and the courts, Garella said.
“But under what legal authority do these officials make these declarations?” he wrote. “Where is it written in law or regulation? And how could such a law or regulation, or even a statement that some official thinks up on the spot, be legal when it conflicts with both the Cambodian Constitution and the International Declaration of Human Rights?”
“If these decisions come from personal authority and not legal authority, it would be a feature of a dictatorship,” he wrote. “Only in a dictatorship are one person’s orders above the law.”
Cambodia’s laws require freedom of information, he said. Meanwhile, thousands of films have been shown in Cambodia without a similar ban.
“As far as I know this is the only film in recent history that has received this treatment,” he said. “So my conclusion is that the government is very worried about this case.”
U.S. filmmaker Rich Garella spoke recently about his documentary ‘Who Killed Chea Vichea?’ with VOA Khmer’s Men Kimseng.
Chea Vichea Documentary Banned at Freedom Park