Vietnam to try journalists over graft reports

HANOI: Two Vietnam journalists will go on trial after being charged with “abusing freedom and democracy” over their reporting of major corruption in the transport ministry, state media said yesterday.
Journalists Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien from two of Vietnam’s most outspoken and respected newspapers have been held in detention since May over their coverage of the graft, a case which sparked public outrage.
They have now been charged with “abusing freedom and democracy”, an offence that carries a maximum jail term of seven years, said an online report from the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper. The trial could start as early as mid-October.
Two senior police officials will also face court for “deliberately revealing state secrets” to the journalists about the corruption, the Ho Chi Minh City-based newspaper said.
The reporters led coverage of the graft case two and a half years ago in which officials at the ministry’s PMU18 infrastructure unit allegedly embezzled funds and used money to bet on football, raising public anger.
The scandal led to the resignation of transport minister Dao Dinh Binh and the arrest of his deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, who was cleared in March of the charges against him.
During their investigation, police suspected the money embezzled from the department, which is funded largely by Japan and the World Bank, was to be wagered on international football matches.
Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper said yesterday that the police officials “had revealed news concerning the case to the press, including incorrect investigation results, causing serious consequences”.
The two journalists “added other unreal information… and wrote comments on details not available in the file”, the paper said.
The arrest in May of the campaigning reporters had provoked a strong response in the editorials carried by their papers.
Several senior journalists later had their accreditations revoked for having expressed their support for their arrested colleagues.-AFP


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