HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Two Vietnamese journalists went on trial Tuesday in Hanoi for allegedly writing false information in reports about one of the country’s most high-profile corruption cases.
Reporters Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien, who work for two of Vietnam’s largest dailies and are noted for their aggressive reporting on corruption, have been charged with “abusing freedom and democracy.”
They face up to 7 years jail.
Two police officers who allegedly provided information to the two journalists also went on trial Tuesday on charges of “deliberately revealing state secrets.”
The two journalists were arrested May 12 for unspecified inaccuracies in their reporting on a scandal at the Transportation Ministry that erupted in 2005.
The scandal led to the conviction of nine people accused of betting millions of dollars on European football matches with money allegedly embezzled from a unit of the ministry that managed major road and bridge construction projects. The unit received substantial funding from the World Bank and the Japanese government.
The case prompted the transportation minister to resign and led to the arrest of the deputy minister. However, charges against the deputy minister were suddenly dropped in March, six weeks before the journalists’ arrests.
It was not immediately known how the two accused journalists have pleaded.
The ruling Communist Party has made fighting corruption one of its top priorities.
Media groups have called for the journalists’ release and said their arrests will discourage reporting on corruption.
“The trial will be a crucial test for press freedom and the struggle against corruption in Vietnam,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement last week.
Foreign media are being allowed to cover the proceedings via close-circuit television.
The Associated Press: Vietnam tries 2 journalists for corruption reports