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Journalists protest cavalier response to reporter assault

The Vietnam Journalists Association has protested a local police decision not to press charges against people who involved in the assault on a local reporter early this year.

Police in Lang Son Province's Cao Loc District on Monday said Nguoi Lao Dong reporter Tran The Dung was beaten by a local man on January 6, but the physical damage suffered was judged low at two percent, although it was not clear how this assessment was arrived at.

As a result, Cao Loc police decided to impose only a civil penalty on Phan Binh An, the attacker.

"This result goes against the order of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the wishes of the Vietnam Journalists Association to have the attackers punished strictly," Nguyen Quoc Trung, deputy chairman of the association, told Thanh Nien Saturday.

"The decision means journalists, who are pioneers in the fight against the bad, are still left unprotected.

"If this situation is allowed to continue, we will be really worried for journalists," he said.

Reporter Tran The Dung said the assault was more serious than shown in the investigation results.

He said he was in fact beaten by a group of men while he was taking photos for a report on poultry smuggling in the northern province of Lang Son, bordering China.

After the assault, the attackers used a car to drive Dung to a local police station, challenging him to seek police help, he said.

Dung said he was not satisfied with the investigation done by Cao Loc Police.

"They couldn't find out the motives behind the assault"¦ I can say that I was beaten by a group of people and they were organized."

"When I was controlled inside the car, I heard Phan Binh An say to someone on the phone: "˜I've taught him a lesson, so you can relax now.'"

Dung's motorbike was also robbed by the attackers and was found two days later by Lang Son border guards. However, Cao Loc police did not consider pressing any robbery charge.

Nguyen Van Trach, deputy editor in chief of Nguoi Lao Dong, said the newspaper protests the decision by Cao Loc police as the investigation has not been objective enough.

Dung was attacked on January 6, but his injuries were not assessed by the investigators until February 8, Trach said.

Moreover, Dung said more than 10 people were involved in the assault but only Phan Binh An was interrogated, he said.

Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien said border areas are sensitive places where security must be strictly maintained. As a result, a group of people beating another person must face charges of "causing public disorder" or "deliberately causing injuries", irrespective of the degree of physical damage caused to the victim.

The Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuracy should take over the case to make sure those who violated the law are punished accordingly, he said.