Officials intimidate Vietnamese reporters covering gambling scam

March 27, 2006

Officials intimidate Vietnamese reporters covering gambling scam

 
A Thanh Nien reporter assaulted by hired men while attempting to take picture of Nguyen Mau Thon  

Vietnamese
journalists covering the multimillion gambling case involving top
officials have been impeded, even attacked, apparently by thugs hired
to protect the accused from the media spotlight.

The
first instance was with connection with Bui Tien Dung, director of the
transport ministry’s Project Management Unit 18 (PMU18), who was taken
into custody late January for betting millions of dollars on football,
suspectedly with money from bribery and embezzlement.

The police subsequently arrested others including Nguyen Mau Thon who is suspected of bribing officials to let Dung off.

When Thon
was taken to his office by the police for a search 7pm Thursday and a
journalist tried to get a shot, he was assaulted.

A big man elbowed the journalist in his belly and another shoved his head, forcing him to fall on his face.

After a
while, a man dressing exactly like Thon, a former policeman, emerged
from the office. Journalists rushed towards him only to find out he was
a body double.

When they
managed to locate the real Thon, four or five men confronted the
reporters. One of them, an outsize hoodlum, confronted a reporter and
wagged a finger at him, warning: “Don’t photograph”.

When the reporter ignored him and continued to shoot, the thug punched him on the face. He fled when a policeman came forth.

When Dung was arrested, dozens of men were surrounding him, shielding him from cameras.

As he was taken in a police car to the station, two skinheads with tattoos on their body “escorted” the car on large motorbikes.

The next
day, when the police questioned Nguyen Viet Bac, deputy director of the
state-owned Vietnam Expressway Corporation, the police station in Hanoi
had more thugs than journalists.

In the
afternoon, around eight men were lounging near the police station,
reading newspapers. Whenever they came upon an article on the gambling
case, they would swear: “If I know who wrote this article, I’ll carve
him up.”

When a journalist came out of an Internet shop, he could not start his motorbike. Its spark plug was missing.

Dung’s
subordinate Vu Manh Tien, PMU18’s vice head, also had
intimidating-looking men with him while police searched his villa in
Hanoi. At least five men, all dressed in black, shielded his house from
press cameras. When a reporter tried to climb an electricity pole to
take pictures, a thug confronted him.

Two
foul-mouthed youths wrenched a camera from a reporter and one of them
said, “Don’t take more shots”. He was also set to punch the camera but
was stopped by another reporter. The situation only eased when police
officers appeared.

Photographing the press

Last week
when the police were questioning deputy transport minister Nguyen Viet
Tien at the station, a man in a denim jacket was yelling into his cell
phone [apparently wishing people to hear him]: “All of you come here.
There are three of them [indicating the journalists]…I have recorded
their license plate [details].”

In the
afternoon, a pockmarked man with long hair turned his camera towards
each reporter outside the police station. He then turned it on their
motorbikes before saying into a mobile phone: “I have photographed each
of them and their license plates. You be ready.”

Obstructing the media from covering news is a crime in Vietnam. So is hiring people for the purpose.

Reported by Nguyen Binh, Thanh Phong – Translated by Hoang Bao

 

Story from Thanh Nien News
Published: 26 March, 2006, 11:19:06 (GMT+7)
Copyright Thanh Nien News

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