New York, September 19, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the actions of Vietnamese police who assaulted Associated Press reporter Ben Stocking, after detaining him in Hanoi today. Police detained Stocking, AP’s Hanoi bureau chief, while he was covering a Catholic protest.
Anonymous video footage posted on YouTube shows two men obstructing Stocking as he tries to photograph a prayer vigil, which was staged in protest against city development of land claimed by the church. The men, one of whom wears a uniform, then lead the obviously unwilling journalist from the scene. The footage does not show the rest of the incident described in the report.
“This brutal police treatment of a working journalist is completely unwarranted,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Journalists should be free to report civil unrest in Vietnam without fear of violence from the authorities.”
In the AP story, Stocking says police confiscated his camera then punched and kicked him when he asked for it back. He also says they hit him in the head with his camera when he reached for it at the police station where he was later taken for questioning, opening a wound which required four stitches.
The AP said it will protest the incident and that the U.S. Embassy had filed a formal protest. Stocking was allowed to leave police custody with an embassy official to seek medical treatment, the report said.
It was not clear whether police obstructed other reporters at the protest site.