Vietnam journalist jailed for exposing scandal

By Tim Johnston in Bangkok

Published: October 16 2008 03:00 | Last updated: October 16 2008 03:00

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A Vietnamese journalist who exposed transport ministry officials who were embezzling foreign aid to bet on European football matches, was yesterday jailed for two years.

Nguyen Viet Chien was convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dinh Van Huynh, one of his informants, was given a one-year sentence for “revealing state secrets”.

Mr Nguyen told the court: “I never have any other purpose in mind when writing my reports but exposing wrongdoing.”

Ngu-yen Van Hai, another journalist who admitted some errors, was given a two-year suspended sentence. General Pham Xuan Quac, the (now retired) policeman who led the corruption inquiry, was reprimanded for giving information to the press.

Vincent Brossel, Asia director for Reporters sans Frontières, said: “It was a political trial, it was a trial of the liberal media.”

The corruption case was deeply embarrassing for the government. In articles in 2006 for privately owned newspapers, Mr Nguyen and Mr Hai exposed a unit in the ministry of transport where officials embezzled funds meant for infrastructure development, mostly donated by the World Bank and Japan. Nine members of the unit have been convicted in connection with the case.

The government has made the fight against corruption a priority but Mr Brossel said the verdicts called its efforts into question.

FT.com / Home UK / UK – Vietnam journalist jailed for exposing scandal

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