The European Union has labelled Vietnam’s jailing of an anti-corruption journalist as “an attack on the freedom of expression”.
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union said it regretted this week’s rulings against Nguyen Viet Chien, who was sentenced to two years’ prison, and fellow reporter Nguyen Van Hai, who received a non-custodial term.
“These sentences are an attack on the freedom of expression as recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Vietnam, and to which the European Union recalls its commitment,” said the statement received by AFP.
The United States, Sweden and two media rights groups earlier protested against the rulings against the reporters and their two police sources for helping expose a major graft scandal in a transport ministry unit.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International also demanded that Chien “be immediately and unconditionally released” and stressed that it “considers him a prisoner of conscience”.
Amnesty said the 2005-2006 corruption scandal – in which officials of the so-called PMU 18 division embezzled and squandered aid funds – “was initially dealt with by unprecedented openness” in the media and legislature.
The guilty verdicts, however, “are indicators of just how much the Vietnamese authorities have retreated from that initial openness, turning the Vietnamese media back to a government mouthpiece,” said the group.
© 2008 AFP