Newly released journalist says thanks for international campaign 

Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, the French journalist and activist who was detained from 17 November to 12 December in Ho Chi Minh City, gave a news conference at Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris this morning in which she talked of her fears while held and thanked all those who campaigned for her release.

“Locked in my cell, I was anxious because I could not imagine how I would ever get out of this situation,” she said. “There was never any violence against me, but I was interrogated for one or two hours by policemen every day except Sundays. They tried to unsettle me. It was a form of moral terror.”

Than Van works for Vietnamese exile community media, including radio Chan Troi Moi (New Horizon –, which broadcasts to Vietnam on the medium wave.

“When you are released and discover all that was done on your behalf, it warms the heart,” she said. “I had this concern while in prison that people did not know what was happening to me. At the same time, I was shocked by all the lies and manipulation in the Vietnamese media. It bore no relation to what I was saying during interrogation.”

Her lawyer, Serge Lewisch, said: “It was a happy outcome, but the risk was enormous. She faced the possibility of life imprisonment on these terrorism charges. And the way the authorities were drawing other things into this case was dangerous for her. It is significant that during all this time I was unable to find a Vietnamese lawyer who dared to defend her. It is an indication of the lack of freedom in Vietnam.”

Bui Xuan Quang, the head of the Thanh Van support committee, thanked all those who participated in the campaign including former French government minister Françoise Hostalier, who interceded with both French and Vietnamese governments. “The Vietnamese ambassador to France told Madame Hostalier that distributing leaflets was a very serious crime,” he said.

Do Hoang Diem, the head of the Viet Tan (Reform) party said: “This case confirms that international pressure is fundamental in this kind of case that the Hanoi regime is not ready to abandon its repressive policy towards dissidents.”

Pointing out that a journalist, Father Nguyen Van Ly, and eight cyber-dissidents are still imprisoned in Vietnam, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said: “We welcome this happy outcome, but we should not stop here. The repression against journalists and dissidents continues, as shown in the conviction two days ago of four trade unionists for giving information to Radio Free Asia.”

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