Vietnam: Journalist Nguyen Viet Chien released

English PEN welcomes the early release on 17 January 2009 of journalist Nguyen Viet Chien as part of a Presidential amnesty to mark the Lunar New Year. Nguyen Viet Chien had served eight months of a two-year prison sentence for reporting on corruption.

According to International PEN’s information, Nguyen Viet Chien was arrested with his colleague Nguyen Van Hai, reporters for the Vietnamese language newspapers Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre respectively, on 13 May 2008. Their detention was linked to their reports on high-level corruption in the so-called “PMU-18” scandal in 2006.  It is said that the scandal provoked the resignation of some senior officials, some of whom who were allegedly linked to development funds which were used to gamble on European football, rather than to build roads and bridges.  On 15 October 2008 the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced both journalists under Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, for ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interest of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens’.  Nguyen Viet Chien was given a two-year imprisonment sentence after pleading his innocence, while Nguyen Van Hai was handed down a non-custodial two-year re-education sentence, after pleading guilty. 

Despite the recent amnesty, English PEN remains seriously concerned about freedom of expression in Vietnam, particularly in light of the apparent crackdown on dissent in September 2008 when a number of writers were arrested for their peaceful dissident activities. The following remain detained in poor conditions without charge or trial:
Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and writer.         
Le Thi Kim Thu , online reporter and photographer.
Pham Van Troi, dissident writer and activist.
Nguyen Van Tuc, farmer, poet and human rights defender.
Ngô Quỳnh, student and dissident writer.
Pham Thanh Nghien, Internet writer and independent journalist.

As such, English PEN is reiterating its call for the release of all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

For the previous International PEN alert on Vietnam, please click here

For the BBC’s country profile on Vietnam, please click here.
Please send appeals:
– Welcoming the release of journalist Nguyen Viet Chien, but remaining concerned about the continued detention and well-being of Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Le Thi Kim Thu, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Van Tuc, Ngô Quỳnh, and Pham Thanh Nghien; 
– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression in Vietnam, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Nguyên Tân Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Lê Doan Hop
Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals.

His Excellency Tran Quang Hoan  
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12 – 14 Victoria Road
W8 5RD
United Kingdom
Fax: 020 7937 6108 or 004420- 7565 3853

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