Vietnamese police detain reporter who covered corruption

New York, January 4, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Van Khuong’s detention on Monday in Ho Chi Minh City on charges related to “giving bribes.” Khuong can be held in detention for as long as four months while authorities investigate his case, according to official statements.

Khuong, a reporter with the Vietnamese-language Tuoi Tre (Youth) daily newspaper, covered corruption in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District’s traffic police department last year and published a series of articles under a pseudonym. While working undercover, the journalist posed as a traffic violator and allegedly had an intermediary bribe a police officer to release an impounded vehicle, news reports said.

Under pressure from government authorities, Tuoi Tre suspended the journalist from his reporting duties on December 3, news reports said.

“We call upon authorities to immediately release Nguyen Van Khuong and allow him to resume his work as an investigative journalist,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Journalists who reveal corrupt government practices should be rewarded–not arrested. Khuong’s detention is another mark against Vietnam’s abysmal and worsening press freedom record.”

Khuong’s detention follows new legislation passed by Vietnamese lawmakers in November that requires news agencies to forward any complaints their journalists receive to the relevant state agency. Many journalists believe the law is aimed at deterring investigative reporting and discouraging whistleblowers from working with the local press.

With 10 journalists, including Khuong, behind bars, Vietnam is the fifth worst jailer of journalists in the world, according to CPJ research.