Thanh Nien’s offices were swamped yesterday by waves of telephone calls, emails and letters calling for arrested Thanh Nien journalist Nguyen Viet Chien to be released as soon as possible.
Many National Assembly members, state officials, scholars and people from all walks of life have called Chien’s arrest unjust and harmful to the common good.
The following are excerpts from opinions voiced with Thanh Nien:
Tran Van Truyen, chief of the Government Inspectorate, National Assembly member
According to media law, reporters must put out a correction when their stories include any false information.
Heavier penalties could include administrative warning and criminal charges.
However, I don’t see that the charges being put up against these reporters are very clear… Is it possibly because they wanted to prosecute the police investigators [who investigated the PMU18 case] so they’re using [the journalists] as collateral?
Pham Quoc Anh, chairman of the Vietnam Lawyers Association, National Assembly member
I spoke with the head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam yesterday and he said there would be a press briefing soon.
With the recent release of Nguyen Viet Tien [former deputy minister of transport] in the PMU18 case and the arrest of these reporters, the public is sensing that something isn’t right.
The reporters were accused of “abuse of power for personal gain,” but this offense tends to be leveled at those being charged with corruption.
If the police want to charge them, they have to prove what the reporters could have gained from writing their stories.
As far as I know, at the time, many newspapers published similar information about PMU18, not just Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre, so it’s hard to say they secured personal gains from their actions.
Nguyen Quang A, Ph.D., Head of the Institute of Development Studies
I think [these arrests are] really not a good thing.
They have been carried out too hastily, and I think the reporters have been unjustly charged.
If someone provides false information, he or she can be indicted because he or she did it intentionally.
But these reporters, having simply received information from responsible individuals, are not worthy of the charges.
It may now seem that detaining the reporters is inconsequential, but explaining the situation will be a headache for the police when they release them, and Vietnam’s image in the world community will suffer.
To treat journalists in this manner is unacceptable.
Tran Dinh Trien, lawyer, head of the Vietnam Bank Association’s Legal Department
Everyone, including journalists and police investigators, must be punished if they break the law.
Is there, however, enough evidence to charge the reporters with “abuse of power” in this case? How and to what scale did they “abuse” their “power”? Press agencies have the right to collect and reveal information.
It is not the reporters but the source of that information that must take responsibility for its accuracy.
The reporters covered the PMU18 case after police had begun to investigate the scam.
Thus there were no “government secrets” to be divulged.
In my opinion, the decision to charge the reporters is very weak from a legal standpoint.
In this case, lawyers can demand the right to access and analyze the PMU18 case files to assess the accuracy of the information.
I think we probably have to reinvestigate the PMU18 scandal.
I think the state must consider this case very carefully because it has the potential to demoralize investigators and the press alike in the fight against corruption and social evils.
In the meantime, the Vietnam Journalists Association should maintain a firm and law-abiding attitude.
I am willing to defend the reporters if invited.
Journalist association will protect members within law: chair
Chairman of the Vietnam Journalist Association Dinh The Huynh answered questions from the press yesterday regarding Monday’s arrest of Viet Chien and Van Hai, reporters from Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre respectively, who were apprehended for their coverage of the PMU18 scandal.
The two newspapers put out corrections following false information that they published regarding PMU 18. Why, then, are government officials are still trying to pursue Chien and Hai’s cases?
According to our media law, certain kinds of information require more than just corrections.
The papers had corrected their information, but still, we need to look deeper into the case.
Do you think that the arrest will discourage other reporters from pursuing their stories? Will the association support its members if needed?
I don’t think the case will have a negative effect on other reporters.
The association is committed to protecting its members under the law.
Several reporters who covered PMU18 said they could not verify their sources. Can you comment on that?
It’s the media’s responsibility to verify the sources of the information being provided to the public.
But government offices rarely want to provide any kind of information to media outlets.
Isn’t this a contradiction?
How is that a contradiction? It’s our job to dig up information.
Journalists must be careful with corruption, says writers’ association leader
The following are excerpts from an interview with the vice chairman of Vietnam Literature Writers’ Association Nguyen Tri Huan:
Thanh Nien: What are your thoughts on the recent arrests of the two reporters who had covered major corruption cases?
Nguyen Tri Huan: It’s such an unfortunate incident, happening right at a time when our government has vowed to battle corruption even harder.
It also comes just as the country has begun hosting the 2008 Vesak Day – an international event being covered by foreign media.
I think the arrests will taint the country’s image – domestically and internationally.
Do you think the investigators gathered enough evidence before the arrest Monday?
I personally think that even if reporters Nguyen Viet Chien (Thanh Nien) and Nguyen Van Hai (Tuoi Tre) did provide false information during their coverage, they don’t deserve to be in custody.
During Thanh Nien’s coverage of PMU18 case, the paper published corrections immediately after any mistakes were made.
Why are they still arresting the reporters?
Will the arrest affect other writers and reporters – those who might want to write about corruption but will now perhaps be too afraid to do so?
I support these writers but what happened to Chien should remind other journalists to be extremely careful when they report.
They must make sure they use accurate information.