Viet police ‘punched’ journalist

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

Viet police ‘punched’ journalist

More information and video of arrest


Police detain, beat Associated Press reporter in Vietnam

New York, September 19, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the actions of Vietnamese police who assaulted Associated Press reporter Ben Stocking, after detaining him in Hanoi today. Police detained Stocking, AP’s Hanoi bureau chief, while he was covering a Catholic protest.

Anonymous video footage posted on YouTube shows two men obstructing Stocking as he tries to photograph a prayer vigil, which was staged in protest against city development of land claimed by the church. The men, one of whom wears a uniform, then lead the obviously unwilling journalist from the scene. The footage does not show the rest of the incident described in the report.

“This brutal police treatment of a working journalist is completely unwarranted,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Journalists should be free to report civil unrest in Vietnam without fear of violence from the authorities.”

In the AP story, Stocking says police confiscated his camera then punched and kicked him when he asked for it back. He also says they hit him in the head with his camera when he reached for it at the police station where he was later taken for questioning, opening a wound which required four stitches.

The AP said it will protest the incident and that the U.S. Embassy had filed a formal protest. Stocking was allowed to leave police custody with an embassy official to seek medical treatment, the report said.

It was not clear whether police obstructed other reporters at the protest site.

CPJ News Alert 2008

More information and video of arrest

Officials in Vietnam deny beating AP reporter

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Vietnamese officials have denied beating an Associated Press reporter in Vietnam while he covered a Catholic prayer vigil in the communist country.

The denial comes a day after Ben Stocking, the Hanoi bureau chief for The Associated Press, was released from police custody after about 2 1/2 hours and required four stitches on the back of his head. His camera was confiscated by police.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung posted a statement Saturday on the ministry’s web site that said, “Stocking broke the Vietnamese law by deliberately taking pictures at a place where taking pictures was not allowed.”

“There was no beating of Mr. Ben Stocking by the Vietnamese security force,” the statement said.

The Associated Press: Officials in Vietnam deny beating AP reporter

More information and video of arrest

AP reporter violates Vietnam’s laws: spokesman

10:55′ 20/09/2008 (GMT+7)

Foreign Ministry spokeman Le Dung

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeman denied accusations that an AP reporter had been beaten, but reiterated that the foreign reporter has violated the country’s laws.

“According to reports that we have received, Ben Stocking has violated Vietnam’s laws by intentionally taking photos at prohibited areas,” spokeman Le Dung said when he was asked for the reasons why AP reported Ben Stocking had been arrested for two hours and beaten by the police on September 19.

Dung also said security guards had told the reporter not to take photos but he refused to comply with.

“It is totally untrue that Mr Ben Stocking was beaten by Vietnamese police force,” the spokesman affirmed.

(Source: VNA)

VietNamNet – AP reporter violates Vietnam’s laws: spokesman

More information and video of arrest

AP reporter detained, beaten by police in Vietnam

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — An Associated Press reporter in Vietnam was punched, choked and hit over the head with a camera by police who detained him Friday while he covered a Catholic prayer vigil in the communist country.

Ben Stocking, the Hanoi bureau chief for The Associated Press, was released from police custody after about 2 1/2 hours and required four stitches on the back of his head. His camera was confiscated by police.

“They told me I was taking pictures in a place that I was not allowed to be taking pictures. But it was news, and I went in,” Stocking said by telephone from Hanoi.

Stocking, 49, was covering a demonstration by Catholic priests and church members at the site of the former Vatican Embassy in Hanoi, which is currently the subject of a land dispute between the church and city authorities.

The city had started to clear the site Friday after announcing a day earlier that it planned to use the land for a public library and park — a significant development in an already tense relationship between the church and state in Hanoi.

After Vietnam’s communist government took power in 1954, it confiscated property from many landowners, including the Catholic Church. The church says it has documents showing it has title to the land.

Within minutes of arriving at the prayer vigil, Stocking said, he was escorted away by plainclothes police who took his camera and punched and kicked him when he asked for it back.

Taken to a police station for questioning, Stocking tried to reach for his camera and an officer “banged me on the head with the camera and another police officer punched me in the face, straight on.” The blow from the camera opened a gash at the back of his head.

Transferred to another police station to give a written statement, Stocking was permitted to leave with a U.S. Embassy official to be taken to a medical clinic.

The AP is protesting the incident, seeking an apology from Vietnamese authorities involved and insisting on the return of Stocking’s property.

“It is an egregious incident of police abuse and unacceptable treatment of a journalist by any civilized government authority,” said John Daniszewski, the AP’s managing editor for international news. “Ben Stocking was doing his job in a calm, reasonable and professional manner when he was escorted away and violently assaulted.”

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Angela Aggeler said a formal statement of protest was filed with the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to e-mail and telephone requests by the AP seeking comment.

Violence is rare against international journalists in Vietnam, which has strict controls that govern press activities and travel. Foreign media have to register with the Foreign Ministry and get permission to go to remote provinces.

The first portion of Stocking’s arrest was captured by an anonymous cameraman and posted on YouTube.

The Associated Press: AP reporter detained, beaten by police in Vietnam

Vietnam row deepens as building starts on church-claimed land

Vietnamese Catholics are seen outside the former house of the Vaticans apostolic delegate in Hanoi

Vietnamese Catholics are seen outside the former house of the Vatican's apostolic delegate in Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — A row between Vietnam’s communist regime and the country’s Catholic community deepened Friday when authorities began building a public park on land claimed by the Church.

The prime site in the heart of the capital Hanoi was the Vatican’s embassy before it was taken over by the city’s communist rulers following the departure of the French in the 1950s.

Police blocked the street next to the site Friday and dozens of priests, nuns and monks looked on as work began. Bulldozers occupied the land and a fence had been knocked down, an AFP journalist saw.

The Archbishop of Hanoi said there had for some time been speculation that a park and a library would be built on the site — a plan confirmed Thursday in the communist party daily, Nhan Dan.

Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet told AFP Catholics would “continue to protest” against the project.

Catholic clergy and parishioners began holding mass rallies at the end of last year demanding back the property near Hanoi’s St Joseph’s Cathedral.

The protests ended earlier this year when the government agreed to resolve the problem, but Catholics say nothing has changed since then.

Vietnam, a unified communist country since the war ended in 1975, has Southeast Asia’s largest Catholic community after the Philippines — at least six million out of a population of 86 million.

All religion remains under state control, but Hanoi’s relations with the Catholic church have improved in recent years, leading to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung making a landmark visit to the Vatican in 2007.

AFP: Vietnam row deepens as building starts on church-claimed land

Bulldozers stoke Hanoi land clash

By Nga Pham
BBC News

Another land dispute is raging at the Thai Ha parish of Hanoi

Another land dispute is raging at the Thai Ha parish of Hanoi

Tensions are high in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, after the authorities began construction work on land claimed by the Catholic church.

At dawn workers moved bulldozers past a police guard onto the disputed site at Nha Chung street.

Crowds of priests and believers soon gathered outside.

The site, which once served as the Vatican ambassador’s residence, was at the centre of a month-long protest by Hanoi Catholics earlier this year.

They only learned that their claim to the land had been turned down the previous afternoon, when the authorities announced via the state media that it would become a park.

A witness told BBC that the police had sealed off the whole area to prevent people getting in.

“But we could see from outside that they have started digging the ground and clearing the front of the residence,” she said.

Another witness said scores of riot policemen and sniffer dogs were mobilised and the whole scene looked “very chaotic”.

January protest

Thousands of Catholics held prayers at the site for the whole of January as they pressed their claim to the land. They say the land was borrowed from the Apostolic delegation of the Hanoi Diocese and it is time to give it back.

The crowds only dispersed after the Archbishop of Hanoi told them that the government had promised to return the land.

However, eight months on and the authorities have decided to transform the former residence into “a green tree park with flower beds and grass lawns”, reports the Ha Noi Moi newspaper.

“The event today caught us totally off-guard,” said Father Nguyen Van Khai, spokesman for Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, adding that a protest has been quickly formed to “ask for justice”.

The Archbishop himself has sent an urgent petition to the Vietnamese prime minister and president, asking them to intervene to stop “activities damaging to the Hanoi Diocese’s assets”.

Luu Van Dat, an official from the state-sponsored Fatherland Front, acknowledged that the ongoing dispute has escalated to a “serious” level.

He said: “The authorities should look into this matter. We have to be very careful in order to protect the rights [of citizens] but also to follow the law.”

Meanwhile, the church has called on all believers to join in protests, as well as pray for the Catholic claim to more disputed land in Hanoi, this time at Thai Ha. This second land grievance has been going on for more than a month, attracting hundreds of believers for prayer and protest every day.

The Vietnamese government maintains that all land belongs to the state and land claims should be submitted to the law courts for consideration.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Bulldozers stoke Hanoi land clash