This is already a couple of days old, but I’m struck by how openly journalists here are voicing their anger at the apparently retaliatory arrests of two journalists, Nguyen Viet Chien and Nguyen Van Hai, who have closely covered the PMU 18 transport-ministry embezzlement and corruption scandals for the past couple of years for Tuoi Tre and Thanh Nien. The arrests of the journalists seem obviously related to the dropping of the investigation a few weeks ago of former Deputy Transportation Minister Nguyen Viet Tien, who was widely believed to be personally in the thick of massive embezzlement from highway projects. Tien was also reinstated as a member of the Communist Party.
This kind of line from Duc Hien of Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper is pretty striking in Vietnam:
I couldn’t believe that they are being prosecuted for abuse of power in service, a crime of corrupt criminals, the group of criminals that their pens never shrink from declaiming, the group of criminals that they are ready to sweat and even bleed to fight against to make society clean.
You just don’t see that kind of talk in the context of a non-government-approved position here. It’s an indication that the press really is gaining a sense of independence. Also, I really liked this perceptive quote from Dinh The Huynh, Editor-in-Chief of the Party newspaper Nhan Dan, pointing out the Catch-22 of arresting journalists for using information from “non-official sources”:
“Orthodox information under the law is very limited. If the press only reports based on orthodox information the information would be insufficient while the mission of the press is seeking information. If every matter is clear, we don’t need journalists and their responsibility.”
Yes indeed! It’s extremely refreshing to see Vietnamese journalists having the confidence to make these points and perhaps bring others in government to understand them.
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