Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the four-year jail sentence that a Ho Chi Minh City people’s court passed today on Nguyen Van Khuong, a reporter for the Tuoi Tre daily newspaper who uses the pen-name of Hoang Khuong.
Khuong, who has been held since January, was convicted of giving bribes to police officers. He was arrested after writing two stories about police corruption for which he did some undercover reporting, posing as a traffic offender pretending to bribe a policeman.
"This sentence is as unfair as it is disgraceful," Reporters Without Borders director-general Christophe Deloire said. "By sanctioning Khuong for his investigative reporting and his two stories on police corruption, Judge Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy has transformed a public service into a crime punishable by imprisonment.
"The fact that the authorities only learned about this matter after Khuong’s articles were published proves his honesty. And by citing his reporting as an extenuating circumstance, the verdict acknowledged its usefulness. We urge the court to overturn this conviction and release him without delay."
Tuoi Tre reported that prosecutors requested a sentence of 6 to 7 years in prison but the court gave him a lesser one on the grounds that his contribution as journalist should be taken into account.
Khuong ’s home and office were searched when police arrested him in Ho Chi Minh City on 2 January in connection with his research for an article in which he adopted a traffic offender’s identity and, using an intermediary, paid a bribe of 15 million dong (715 dollars) to a traffic policemen, Huynh Minh Duc, to obtain the release of an impounded vehicle.
Khuong’s stories about police officers who take bribes to turn a blind eye to traffic violations have made him famous and have prompted angry criticism of the police by the public.
The police officer got a five-year sentence for taking the bribe. Khuong’s brother-in-law was also sentenced to five years in prison.