Reporters Without Borders today strongly condemned the arrest in Hanoi yesterday of two Vietnamese journalists, accused of “misuse of power”. It also spoke out against the house arrest of US journalist of Vietnamese origin, Le Hong Thien, who was in the country to cover the Olympic torch relay.
Nguyen Van Hai of the newspaper Tuoi Tre and Nguyen Viet Chien of the newspaper Thanh Nien, who at the end of 2005 investigated a major official corruption case, were arrested for “misuse of power and authority”.
Several local media said they were being held in preventive detention for a period of four months. The corruption case, which was widely covered by the national press, resulted in the conviction of around a dozen political figures, including the transport minister. The managements of the two newspapers hit by arrests were at a loss to explain the reaction of the authorities. “Of the around one hundred papers which carried articles on this case, the authorities have only made charges involving two,” they said.
US journalist Le Hong Thien (pen-name: Tran Huu Thien), who came to Ho Chi Minh City on 27 April to cover the Olympic torch relay, was arrested at the beginning of May. His US passport has been confiscated and he has been placed under house arrest at his brother’s home. For the last two weeks, he has been questioned on a daily basis. Le Hong Thien is the editor of the US-published magazine Gia Dinh, a reporter on the Viet Times Weekly, and contributor to Radio New Horizon, which broadcasts inside Vietnam.