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.


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