Reporters Without Borders condemns journalist Nguyen Van Khuong’s arrest yesterday in Ho Chi Minh City in connection with his undercover investigative reporting for the newspaper Tuoi Tre. Khuong, who writes under the pen-name of Hoang Khuong, is to be held for four months while the authorities investigate his use of a bribe to expose traffic police corruption.
“Khuong should not be charged with bribery because of what he did in the course of an undercover investigation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He was acting as a reporter, not for personal gain. He is a well-known journalist who has written many stories about police corruption. The authorities should free him at once and abandon any thought of prosecuting him in connection with what he exposed. On the contrary, they should take the appropriate action in response to his investigative reporting, which was in the public interest.”
Police searched Khuong’s home and office when arresting him yesterday in connection with his research for an article in which, to obtain irrefutable evidence, he adopted a traffic offender’s identity and, using an intermediary, paid a bribe of 15 million dong (715 dollars) to a police officer, Huynh Minh Duc, to obtain the release of an impounded vehicle.
Duc was arrested after Khuong’s story was published. The police nonetheless successfully pressured Khuong’s newspaper into suspending him on 3 December.
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.