Bui Chat, the head of the independent publishing house Giay Vun (“Recycled Paper), was released on 2 May after being held for three days on his return from Argentina but was briefly detained again on 3 May for more questioning.
The authorities have also kept the “Freedom to Publish Prize” which he received from the International Publishers Association (IPA) during his visit to Buenos Aires and which was confiscated when he was arrested on 30 April.
Bjorn Smith-Simonsen, who heads the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee, hailed Chat’s release but voiced concern about the fact that the authorities were still questioning him. “Vietnamese law theoretically permits his detention for up to 12 months before charges are pressed,” he said.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the authorities are treating Chat, who has committed no crime or offence.
The IPA has awarded it “Freedom to Publish” prize to several journalists in the past, including Iran’s Shalah Lahiji in 2006 and Zimbabwe’s Trevor N’cube in 2007. It was also awarded posthumously to the Russian newspaper reporter Anna Politkovskaya and the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink.
Detained for winning “Freedom to Publish Prize
Reporters Without Borders condemns underground publisher and poet Bui Chat’s arrest at Tan Son Nhat airport on 30 April. The founder of the Giay Vun publishing house, Chat had just returned from Buenos Aires, where he had received the “Freedom to Publish Prize” from the International Publishers Association (IPA).
“The Vietnamese authorities gave no reason for Chat’s arrest but it seems directly linked to the prize he received,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Although Vietnam claims to have made significant progress on human rights, journalists, netizens and now publishers continue to be jailed if they dare to defy the government by voicing or relaying dissident views.”
The IPA condemned the Chat’s arrest, describing him as a “courageous underground publisher” who had published the works of “pavement poets” and who had “helped create an independent publishing movement.”
The authorities seized Chat’s award and the prize certificate when they arrested him.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to release Chat immediately and to abandon any plans to prosecute him.