Cambodia illegal logging_2014_10_14
A logging truck in Cambodia's Mondulkiri Protected Forest. The country has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Image: Global Water Forum, Flickr.

The murder of a journalist investigating illegal logging in Cambodia has turned the spotlight once again on the risks faced by reporters working to expose wrongdoing in the world's environmental crime hotspots. 

According to Reporters without Borders, local journalist Taing Try was investigating a "sensitive story" on illegal logging in Cambodia's Kratie province when he was fatally shot early on Sunday morning. He was reportedly attempting to document the transportation of illegal luxury wood near a local village, says the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)

Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder.

“This cold-blooded killing shows again just how dangerous Cambodia is for journalists, especially those who investigate wrongdoing about the country’s land and forests,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

Try's murder follows the 2012 killing of Cambodian journalist Hang Serei Oudom, who was known for his reporting on illegal logging activities. In that same year, one of the country's most outspoken environmental activists, Chut Wutty, was shot dead by Cambodian military police officers, also while covering a story on illegal logging. 

Incidents involving threats, intimidation and physical attacks against journalists are also common in the country. 

Cambodia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Its primary rainforest cover has declined from over 70% in 1970 to just 3.1% in 2007, according to a UN report. In total, the country lost 2.5 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2005, 334,000 hectares of which were primary forest. 

Cambodia is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Top header image: CIFOR, Flickr