Sunday, October 19, 2008

Journalists Sentenced for Reporting Corruption.

The post today may be a little off-topic, but I thought it's something everybody should be aware of, and to appreciate the freedom of expression granted in the US, which is relatively greater than many other places in the world, such as Viet Nam.

In May 2008, two Vietnamese journalists were arrested after they reported on a famous case of government corruption in 2006. The reported political scandal is PMU 18 (Public Management Unit 18), which involved the use of millions of public funds in gambling, nepotism and bribery. The PMU was operated under the Ministry of Transport, which received funding from international sources such as Japan, the EU, World Bank and Australia to help Viet Nam build roads and other infrastructures. The PMU scandal was one of the greatest political scandals, which led to extensive news coverage, the resignation of the transport minister, and the arrest of the deputy minister.

The deputy minister was released without any charge in March 2008. His position in the party was still reserved. Shortly after that, two of the journalists who reported on the case two years ago were arrested and accused of "abusing power and democratic freedoms," distributing "false information," and "disclosing secret information." Just a few days ago, on October 14th, one of them, Mr. Chien from Thank Nien was sentenced to 2 years in prison, while the other, Mr. Hai is on probation for 24 months. The justification of the judge for sentencing Mr. Chien to 2 years was that "He doesn't admit for his wrongdoing." Mr. Chien insisted that he got his information from trusted sources, and that the information he provided is completely correct. Mr. Hai, on the other hand, admitted that he was not careful about the information he published. Another journalist who was also arrested, suddenly admitted he was wrong after "a night reconsidering," and was released after that.

I don't want to be biased by making a conclusion that the two journalists are innocent, and the judge has made the wrong decision (whether unintentional or not). The fact that the journalists are both well-respected members of the journalists community, had been writing for two of the most popular news sites in Viet Nam, and have both reported many corruption cases is not why I am more geared towards considering this another example of government corruption. But what a coincidence when they were arrested roughly after the deputy minister was released back to his position. Another "coincidence," as mentioned above, is that the one who doesn't admit the information about corruption was false, was sentenced to prison, while the other not. Besides, when asked about what "false information" the journalists reported, the police answered the question by claiming that it's a "sensitive matter."

Many are angry with the court's decision, and think that anyone who dares to fight government corruption faces the risk of being eliminated, or "taught a lesson." Instead of expressing their angers on traditional Vietnamese news sites, they go on more liberal sites such as BBC Vietnam to voice their opinions. With the youth being more and more skeptical about traditional news sites, and seeing other journalists being convicted for covering corruption, where would the future of the media and future journalists go? Journalists trained to hide the truth? Or journalists escaping traditional media for their own routes?

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous post! I did not know about this case. It truly does make you think about what we have here and what other journalists face.