HANOI – MEDIA rights group Reporters without Borders has denounced the ‘arrest and mistreatment’ of an American journalist covering a protest in Vietnam.
The Associated Press accused Vietnamese police of punching its Hanoi bureau chief Ben Stocking in the face as he tried to cover a demonstration in the capital Hanoi on Friday.
Police took his camera and, when he asked for it back, hit him on the head with it and punched him, the AP said in a report from Bangkok published on the Internet.
He then spent two and a half hours in a police station before being taken to a clinic where he had four stitches to his head.
‘Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest and mistreatment of Associated Press Hanoi bureau chief Ben Stocking by police while he was covering a peaceful demonstration by Vietnamese Catholics,’ the group said in a statement.
The AP has asked the Vietnamese authorities to apologise and return Mr Stocking’s camera, it said.
Vietnam denied the allegations.
‘Ben Stocking has violated Vietnam’s laws by intentionally trying to take photos at prohibited areas,’ said foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung.
‘It is totally untrue that Mr Ben Stocking was beaten by Vietnamese security forces.’
The US embassy in Vietnam said it had lodged a protest with the government over the incident, which took place during a protest by Catholic priests, monks and nuns against government construction work on land claimed by the Church.
‘We strongly object to any aggressive actions being taken against any individuals American or otherwise who is observing or participating in a peaceful gathering,’ an embassy spokeswoman told AFP.
‘We have protested the incident to the government.’ — AFP