Journalists attacked for covering corruption

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned by two recent violent attacks on journalists in Vietnam.

On April 21, assailants set fire to the car of journalist Hoang Thien Nga outside her home in Dak Lak Province, in the Central Highlands.

Nga, the Dak Lak correspondent for the national daily Tien Phong, had reported extensively on corruption and crime. Most recently, she had written exposés on Dai Hung, a lawyer with alleged ties to both the criminal underworld and high-ranking government officials. Police are currently searching for Hung to arrest him for his alleged involvement in hunting endangered gaur, or wild cows, with Vo Thanh Long, a senior official in Ho Chi Minh City. Long was arrested in March. In Vietnam, hunting gaurs is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

According to CPJ sources, Nga received threatening phone calls from Dai Hung’s relatives demanding that she stop writing about his case. Several days before the April 21 attack, Nga had asked Tien Phong management for protection, and the paper notified local police about the threats. However, immediately following the attack, police were very slow to respond to Nga’s calls for help. Later on April 21, police did arrest two suspects in the case, but authorities have since told Nga that they may not have enough evidence to charge them.

On April 20, Bui Tan Son Dinh, a reporter for the newspaper Nong Nghiep Vietnam, was attacked by a group of unidentified assailants while reporting on prostitution in Ho Chi Minh City, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). After Dinh photographed prostitutes and their clients, a group of 10 men asked to see his journalist’s identity card and then began beating him. Although the local police precinct was about 300 yards away, officers did nothing to stop the attack, his colleague told AFP.

The ruling Communist Party tightly controls all media in Vietnam, and in recent years journalists have faced increasing threats for reporting on crime and corruption by both government officials and private citizens. Last year, after journalists helped uncover a major corruption case linking high-level officials to notorious gang leader Nam Cam, propaganda officers warned the reporters not to “expose secrets, create internal divisions, or hinder key propaganda tasks” in their coverage of the scandal.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending our colleagues worldwide, CPJ calls on the Vietnamese government to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the attacks against both Bui Tan Son Dinh and Hoang Thien Nga and to prosecute those responsible. Furthermore, we urge Your Excellency to ensure that all journalists in Vietnam are able to report freely and safely, without fear of reprisal.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.


Joel Simon
Acting Director