Samling appropriated and claimed ownership over a photo featuring the work of community-based organization SAVE Rivers, which Samling is suing for publicly criticizing Samling’s lack of community engagement
January 25, 2022 (Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia) — On a webpage highlighting its commitment to corporate social responsibility, Samling Timber Malaysia has posted a photo featuring the work of SAVE Rivers, the very community organization the timber giant is currently suing for defamation. The photo is posted in a section titled “Engaging and Supporting Local Communities,” and the footer of the webpage erroneously claims that “all photos are credited to Samling’s staff.”
The photo was taken and is owned by The Borneo Project, and features a grassroots project jointly operated by The Borneo Project and SAVE Rivers. The project in question is the Baram Heritage Survey, which hired and trained people from communities of the Baram River Basin to collect ecological and social data. Through this project, communities have been gathering data that counters Samling’s assumptions about the value of their traditional lands.
The placement of the photo in this particular section implies that the photos features Samling’s work with communities. The people in the photo include SAVE Rivers staff and people from communities in the upper Baram River Basin. The land of these communities lies within the boundaries of Samling timber concessions; however, for the past few years, these communities have actively protested the logging. A committee comprised of representatives from these communities has filed complaints against Samling with the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
“Unfortunately, this is just one more instance in which Samling did not do its due diligence. Logging is seriously impacting the communities of Baram and those communities have been voicing their concerns for years. This shows once again that Samling is more concerned with image than with real community work,” said Jettie Word, executive director of The Borneo Project.
It is unclear how Samling obtained the photo. It originally appeared in an article criticizing Samling’s work in the Baram area. The article specifically points out the company’s lack of corporate social responsibility, namely the absence of publicly available environmental and social impact reports and a lack of adequate community consultation. These are the same allegations made by SAVE Rivers that have led Samling to file a defamation suit against the community advocacy organization.
The photo is protected by copyright law. Legal representatives for The Borneo Project have sent Samling a letter requesting them to immediately remove the photo from their website.
Jettie Word, Borneo Project, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 505 250 3843
SAVE Rivers supports and empowers rural communities to protect their land, rivers, and watersheds through capacity building, networking, research, education, and advocacy.
The Borneo Project, a project of Earth Island Institute, brings international attention and support to community-led efforts to defend forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights.