Jailing of Viet journalist a blow for press freedom

The international press freedom advocacy group Reporters without Borders has condemned the jailing of a Vietnamese journalist for his coverage of a state corruption scandal.

The People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced the journalist to two years imprisonment and also jailed his police source for a year, saying they were both guilty of abusing democratic freedoms that infringed on the interests of the state. The journalist and another colleague had exposed the fact that foreign aid money destined for road building was being used by senior and middle ranking transport officials for gambling on english soccer matches. Reporters without Borders spokesman Vincent Brossel says the jailing of Nguyen Viet Chien of the Thanh Nien or Young People newspaper, is a blow to press freedom and a huge setback to the fight against corruption in Vietnam.

Presenter: Claudette Werden
Speaker: Vincent Brosse, Reporters without Borders

BROSSEL: It’s really unfair and it sends a negative signal for press freedom in Vietnam and the fight against corruption because they have been reporting about a huge case and they had been leading a new trend in the Vietnamese cycle to investigate and talk about social issues, corruption issues, environmental issues and to make the Vietnamese press more open. And now one of them is sentenced to two years jail, it is a long and very serious term only because he refused to plead guilty and the other one has been sentenced to re-education camp and will be released because he pleaded guilty, so it means there was huge pressure on them to apologise, plead guilty and make sure that the Vietnamese Communist party will feel that its controlling everything.

WERDEN: Its interesting because also jailed was the journalist’s police source, the person who gave the journalist the information, what signal does that send?

BROSSEL: It’s a signal to the civil servants and people who are inside the state and in some circumstances give information to the journalist and it’s exactly what the prosecutor said during the trial, that every information that is not authorised is a state secret, so it means that the journalist, the police people have been violating the law because they have been working together against corruption. Apart from this blow to press freedom, its also a big setback for the fight against corruption that is becoming a real big issue in Vietnam.

WERDEN: That’s an interesting point, anything that is not authorised, even though its exposing corruption.

BROSSEL : Exactly I mean its just a matter of legal interpretation, when information is given, it’s not a state secret so the journalists were right to publish, investigate and report and the police investigators were also very right to share information with the press because it was the only way to get enough pressure to arrest the top officials who were involved in this corruption scandal. And there is one important thing the money that was taken by these officials were coming from the World Bank and the Japanese government, so it means we don’t have any accountability about what is going on with the money the international community, Australia, European Union, World Bank are giving to Vietnam.

WERDEN: Are you aware of the outcome for those officials who were found out to be gambling with the aid money?

BROSSEL: Yeah middle level officials have been charged, and some of them have been put in jail but the deputy Minister has been released and he’s still free and it gives a very clear signal that the Communist party is ready to protect its own members, its high level members in any case and that corruption is so common that top officials can be cleared and protected.

Jailing of Viet journalist a blow for press freedom

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