Vietnamese newspaper fights police in rare legal standoff, says reporter was attacked

By Nguyen Dong   October 4, 2016 | 04:12 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese newspaper fights police in rare legal standoff, says reporter was attacked
A Tuoi Tre reporter (in white) is thumbed by a police officer in plain clothes in Hanoi September 23. Photo by Thanh Nien/Minh Chien
The two sides disagree on whether Tuoi Tre's journalist was deliberately hit by an officer last month.

It all started on the morning of September 23, when a taxi driver was found dead under a bridge in Hanoi's Tay Ho District.

Soon after police and a group of reporters arrived at the scene, the saga began.

According to the police, one of the reporters, Tran Quang The from Tuoi Tre newspaper, obstructed their work. As an officer tried to force him to leave the scene, he "was accidentally hit in the face."

There was no assault, police concluded. The officer, Ngo Quang Hung, has been rebuked.

The, the reporter, has been fined VND14.4 million ($650) for a wide range of violations listed by the police, including trespassing in restricted areas, taking photographs in restricted areas, offending officers on duty, abusing a journalist’s status to intervene in legal processes, and illegal parking.

Tuoi Tre has continuously challenged the police's account, saying its reporter was beaten that day and that what he did -- taking pictures for a story -- was completely legal.

It has also criticized the police for handing down the fine against its journalist, describing the decision unfair.

On Monday the newspaper, one of the most popular media outlets in the country, officially filed an appeal to the Ministry of Public Security and Hanoi leaders.

The true essence of the incident was “the obstruction of the press in public places and the assault of a journalist," it wrote in the appeal.

The reporter also lodged his own complaint. He has so far admitted to only illegal parking, which is subjected to a fine of VND350,000.

Amid the standoff, Thanh Nien newspaper, another major outlet, has published photos and a video that appears to corroborate Tuoi Tre's version of events.

In the video and the photos, a police officer in plain clothes can be seen punching and kicking The.

Minh Chien, the Thanh Nien journalist who recorded the video, said he also had to flee the site quickly as some officers intended to seize his camera too.

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