Wednesday, October 15, 2008
HANOI: A court in communist Vietnam sentenced a journalist to two years in jail on Wednesday after finding him guilty of “abuse of power” while covering a state corruption scandal two years ago.
Nguyen Viet Chien of the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper was sentenced after a two-day trial at the Hanoi People’s Court, a Reuters witness said. He had pleaded not guilty.
Another journalist, Nguyen Van Hai of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) paper, who had pleaded guilty to a similar charge, was given two years’ probation and was expected to be freed later on Wednesday, the witness said.
The pair were detained in May and accused of spreading “false information” and “abusing free and democratic rights to breach the interest of the state and legal rights of organisations and citizens” in their coverage of the corruption saga.
Former police Major-General Pham Xuan Quac, who used to be director of the Social Order Crime Investigation Department, was formally warned by the court for “intentionally disclosing secrets.” He had been accused of being a source for the stories.
A former lieutenant-colonel also alleged to have been a source was given one year in jail.
The scandal erupted at a transport ministry agency that builds roads and bridges with foreign aid.
The agency has been investigated since 2005 after officials were accused of embezzling state money and using it to fund a lavish lifestyle and betting on European soccer.
The media in Vietnam are rigidly controlled by the ruling Communist party, but have been encouraged to report on corruption as part of a campaign to root out graft, which is cited as hampering investment and development.
(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Ed Cropley and Paul Tait)