Police arrested Chien along with journalist Nguyen Van Hai, a writer for Tuoi Tre newspaper. The arrests came six weeks after a deputy minister was acquitted of corruption charges in a 2006 case they had covered, according to news reports.
Security officials cited inaccuracies in the reports published in the outspoken Vietnamese-language newspapers, according to the news accounts. Nguyen Van Hai (no relation to Hai of Dieu Cay) and Nguyen Viet Chien aggressively covered the 2006 “PMU-18” scandal, in which transport officials were accused of betting public money on football matches. The transport minister resigned over the scandal and some officials still faced charges in late year.
The two newspapers, Tuoi Tre (Youth) and Thanh Nien (Young People), published critical editorials protesting the arrests but received official warnings to stop, according to news reports.
In August, the Vietnamese government revoked the press credentials of at least four journalists for reporting “agitating information” following the two arrests, according to a translation of a report on the Vietnamese Nhan Dan Web site that was provided by BBC Monitoring.
Chien and Hai were formally charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” on September 30. The Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Chien to two years in prison on October 15. Hai, who did not contest the charge, was given a noncustodial two-year re-education sentence the same day. A police officer was also given a one-year jail term for “deliberately revealing state secrets” to the two journalists, news reports said. While questioning Chien, a prosecutor said interviewing the police was illegal under press laws because “journalists are not allowed to receive information from unauthorized sources,” according to the Asia Sentinel.