In Vietnam, a jailed journalist’s health seriously deteriorates

New York, February 20, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the severe deterioration in the health of independent journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, 39, who has been imprisoned since 2002.

When Binh’s family visited him in Nam Ha prison on February 15, he was so thin and weak that he could not hold a conversation, walk well, or lift his 5-year-old daughter, according to human rights activists in Vietnam.

“The sharp deterioration in Nguyen Vu Binh’s health is cause for grave concern and we call for his immediate release,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is appalling that while Vietnam’s government has been trying to portray an image of greater openness and reform, this journalist remains jailed simply for expressing his opinion.”

Local activists said the jailed journalist now suffers from hypertension and liver disease, in addition to diabetes and heart problems documented by CPJ in November 2006.

“He told his family that several times he called out for help in his jail cell, but nobody came to see him,” said medical doctor and writer Pham Hong Song who maintains contact with Binh’s family. He also told CPJ that he remains under strict police surveillance since his release from jail in August 2006.

Binh, a former reporter for the official publication Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism) was jailed in a 2002 crackdown on independent writers, and is the only one of those arrested who is still in prison. His arrest appeared linked to an August 2002 article he wrote criticizing border agreements between Vietnam and China, and to his pro-democracy writings and communication with overseas groups.