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Obstruction of journalists on the rise

Journalists have been obstructed and/or assaulted in Vietnam 18 times since 2006, said the Vietnam Journalists Association, which called the situation "critical."

The figure was released Monday at a conference in Hanoi in which officials and journalists discussed the issue, which has attracted more public attention ever since a Nguoi Lao Dong reporter was attacked in the northern province of Lang Son early this year.

Ngo Huy Toan, an inspector from the Ministry of Information and Communications, said the real number of assaults on journalists was even higher.

"In fact many reporters have been obstructed in different ways. It even happened at government offices," he said.

Some cases were serious but no criminal charges were pressed, Toan said.

Tran Duc Chinh, chief editor of the journalist association's news website, said in all cases the offenders knew they were attacking reporters. After Nguoi Lao Dong reporter Tran The Dung was beaten, he was even driven to a local police station by the attackers, Chinh said.

Dung 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. The assault left him in serious condition.

After local police decided not to press charges against the attackers last month, the government ordered a reinvestigation of the case.

Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien said at the conference that a complete legal framework would be necessary to protect reporters and punish attackers accordingly.