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Release: Immediate

'Killing Fields' journalist lectures at UI Oct. 27

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Dith Pran, the celebrated Cambodian journalist whose harrowing escape from his native country was portrayed in the movie "The Killing Fields," will present a lecture at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27 in the Buchanan Auditorium of the Pappajohn Business Administration Building at the University of Iowa.

Pran, who describes himself as a "one-person crusade" in reporting about the genocide that took place in Cambodia in the 1970s, will visit the UI as an Ida Beam Visiting Professor sponsored by the Office of International Education in the UI College of Education.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is presented in conjunction with "Global Focus '98: Human Rights," the UI's year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Dith Pran is a testament to the power of the human spirit to endure the kind of political evil that most of us couldn't imagine, let alone survive," says Paul Retish, director of the Office of International Education. "He speaks humbly, but powerfully, about individual liberty and conscience in a way that goes to the heart of what human rights are all about."

Pran and New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg reported on the civil war in Cambodia from 1972 to 1975, staying to cover the fall of Phnom Penh after other Americans and Cambodian dependents were evacuated. When the communist Khmer Rouge took over the capital, Pran, Schanberg and two other journalists were captured and sentenced to death.

Pran convinced Khmer Rouge officials that Schanberg and the other journalists were neutral French journalists, winning their release. Pran was sentenced to the Khmer Rouge's forced labor camps, known as the "Killing Fields," where he endured starvation and torture. He escaped to Thailand in 1979.

Schanberg won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Cambodian civil war, accepting on behalf of Pran and himself.

Pran, who has worked as a photojournalist for the New York Times since 1980, lost more than 50 relatives to the Khmer Rouge regime, including his father, three brothers, a sister and their families.

He is the founder of The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project Inc. He also served as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees in 1985.

He compiled and edited "Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors" (Yale University Press, 1997).

The Ida Beam Visiting Professor program is named after Ida Beam of Vinton, who willed her farm to the UI Foundation in 1977. With proceeds from the sale of the farm the UI established a fund to bring top scholars in a variety of disciplines to the UI for lectures and discussions.

For more information about Global Focus '98, visit the website:


Please note: The Institute for Cinema and Culture and the Comparative Literature Program have scheduled two screenings of the film "The Killing Fields" to coincide with Pran's visit to campus. The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24 in Room 101 of the Becker Communications Building. The screenings are free and open to the public.