Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two journalists to be tried

Two journalists in Vietnam, both working for the state owned press, are to be tried October 14 for their reporting on a major corruption scandal in Vietnam. Their crime is not covering up the scandal but exposing it. The scandal on which they reported, known as the PMU18 graft scandal, involved high ranking officials in Vietnam's transport ministry diverting foreign aid intended for building roads and bridges into supporting lavish lifestyles and betting on European football games.

Reporters without Borders is urging the court to dismiss the case. The arrest of these reporters -- Nguyen Viet Chien and Nguyen Van Hai of Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre newspapers respectively -- has had a chilling effect on other journalists in Vietnam. "What is at stake in the court is more important than the trial of two innocent journalists, it is a public trial that is aimed at frightening the entire profession," said a colleague of the arrested journalists. They will be tried along with two police officers, accused of having "deliberately revealed state secrets." At least eight other journalists who wrote on this scandal have also been summoned to court.

Update: At the conclusion of the two-day trial, Thanh Nien reporter Nguyen Viet Chien was sentenced to two years in jail, backdated to his arrest May 12, 2008. His colleague Nguyen Van Hai of Tuoi Tre was given a 24-month non-custodial sentence, including time served, on grounds that he had pled guilty to the crimes of which he was accused. Of the two police officers charged with leaking the classified information, Pham Xuan Quac, the former Head of the Department on Social Crime Investigative Police, received an official warning; while Dinh Van Huynh of the Public Security Ministry was sentenced to one year in prison.

The European Union, the United States and various human rights organizations have protested this trial.

Sources: Reporters Without Borders press release, Oct. 10. The Age, Oct. 17; VOA Oct. 17; The Jurist, Oct. 17; Nhan Dan Oct. 16; Thanh Nien Oct. 16; Amnesty International Oct. 16; Committee to Protect Journalists, Oct. 15; Vnexpress. Net Oct 14, Pioneer p1, Quan Doi Nhan Dan, Thanh Nien, Vietnam News Briefs, Oct. 16.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Amnesty International report on crackdown against Catholics


9 October 2008
AI Index No: ASA

Viet Nam: Growing fear, growing discrimination

The Vietnamese government must end its intimidation and attacks against Catholics and ensure protection against violence by state-sponsored groups, Amnesty International said today.

The widening persecution comes after the authorities cracked down on peaceful mass protests by Catholics in Ha Noi at the end of September 2008. In August and September, Catholics gathered in the thousands to show their support for the churchâ~@~Ys claims in a land dispute.

In a briefing paper released today, based on new information, Amnesty International illustrates how Catholics are increasingly physically and verbally attacked and intimidated in the wake of the crackdown. The report is based on interviews with church groups, journalists and parishioners in the country.

"And they shout bad words about our mothers and fathers, and say things like 'kill the archbishop' and 'kill the priests'", a young Catholic woman told Amnesty International. "Last Sunday evening when I came from church, there were maybe 400-500 people there, many in blue shirts, shouting slogans and holding banners."

As the campaign in state-controlled media against the Catholic protestors is intensifying, counter-protesters and state sponsored groups are gathering outside the Archdiocese and the Thai Ha parish in Ha Noi, harassing and intimidating church leaders and parishioners. At least one Catholic church outside of Ha Noi has been attacked by stone-throwing gangs.

Authorities are also using criminal law to stifle free expression of opinion. Four protesters have been detained and charged, and numerous parishioners have been called in for questioning at police stations in recent days. Moreover Amnesty International believes that senior church officials are at risk of arrest.

Catholics started protesting in December 2007 over a long-running dispute about ownership of two pieces of land in Ha Noi. The land belonged to the Catholic Church until the 1950s when it was confiscated by the state. Negotiations between the church and the government stalled in February 2008 and in August and September thousands of people, some from other parts of the country, joined in the peaceful protest. By the end of September, the authorities had sealed off the areas under dispute and put an end to the mass vigils.

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in
London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat,
Amnesty International,
1 Easton St.,
London WC1X 0DW, UK

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Human Rights Watch protests crackdown on Catholics

Human Rights Watch has issued a press release on the continuing conflicts between the government and Catholic church in Vietnam, in what it describes as the harshest crackdown on Vietnam Catholics in decades. It urges an end to "the harassment, threats, and restrictions on the movement of the Archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet;" the release of Catholics arrested "for holding peaceful prayer vigils in Hanoi;" and holding accountable police and others responsible for attacking the demonstrators.

There have been many denunciations in the state owned press of the Hanoi archbishop and other Catholic leaders and demonstrators since Sept. 21, when "10,000 Catholics gathered in prayer outside Hanoi’s main St. Joseph Cathedral to protest the demolition of church buildings at the nearby Nunciature."

The overseas VietCatholic News Agency has been reporting daily on this crisis.