New York, August 5, 2008—The Vietnamese government revoked the press credentials of seven local journalists from four newspapers, of which at least two had aggressively covered the controversial arrest of two journalists in May, according to local and international new reports. All seven of the accused journalists are forbidden to work while their press cards are suspended.
According to the reports, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Do Quy Doan ordered the revocation of five journalists’ and editors’ press cards on August 1 for what he referred to as “serious violations of information in the press.” No further details of the charges were released. Two more journalists had their press credentials withdrawn for alleged corruption, according to news reports that quoted the government mouthpiece Nhan Dan newspaper.
“We are concerned that these punitive actions are intended to intimidate journalists who have dared to challenge the government,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call upon the Ministry of Information and Communications to reverse this arbitrary decision and allow Vietnam’s journalists to work without intimidation and harassment.”
The group of five was reported to include Nguyen Quoc Phong, deputy editor-in-chief of the Thanh Nien (Young People) Vietnamese-language daily newspaper; Huynh Kim Sanh, editorial manager of the same publication; Bui Van Thanh, editor-in-chief of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) local language newspaper; Duong Duc Da Trang, Tuoi Tre’s Hanoi office representative; and Tran Dinh Dung, a journalist with the Khoa Hoc va Doi Song (Science and Life) newspaper.
The two accused of corruption were Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, deputy editor-in-chief of the Nguoi Cao Tuoi newspaper, and Hoang Tuyet Oanh, a journalist for the same publication, news reports said.
The suspensions come in the wake of the May arrest of journalists Nguyen Van Hai, a reporter with Tuoi Tre, and Nguyen Viet Chien of Thanh Nien, on “abuse of power and authority” charges stemming from their critical reporting on a 2006 corruption and gambling scandal at the Ministry of Transport.
The two reporters are still in detention and it isn’t clear if the suspensions were in any way connected with the ongoing investigations. In a rare instance of editorial defiance, both Tuoi Tre and Thanh Nien published critical editorials about the government’s arrest of their reporters.
Certain newspapers in Vietnam are known to be aligned with factions inside the ruling Communist Party, but all local newspapers are state-controlled and required to report in favor of the government. The controversy over the two jailed journalists comes as conservative and moderate factions inside the ruling party struggle for control of Vietnam’s reform agenda.