WASHINGTON DC —
Vietnamese have gone online to criticize the country's media for not investigating the lavishly decorated home of former party chief Nong Duc Manh.
A photo published online last month and later removed showed Manh sitting on a golden throne-like chair, elaborately carved with dragon heads for arms.
It has sparked heated debates on the Internet, including VOA's Vietnamese Facebook page, where one man wrote, “They dare not act as they might be scolded.”
More than 700 state-run newspapers in Vietnam have largely stayed mute on the topic.
A senior editor at a popular newspaper in Vietnam, who wished to remain anonymous, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that local media organizations are unable to take action because Manh was once a top official in the ruling party.
“It is impossible to do anything. He is way high up there. They would prevent [us] from investigating him," he said.
Many people have compared the coverage of Manh’s case with a massive investigation that the press launched into the estate and wealth of a former chief government inspector Tran Van Truyen who was later reprimanded for allegedly abusing his position to accrue huge real estate holdings.
Social activist Nguyen Quang A said he believes that reporters were given green lights to pursue Truyen while being warned against doing the same thing with Manh.
“There are over 700 mainstream newspapers in Vietnam, but in fact the Communist Party acts as a sole editor-in-chief, so it depends on the decision of a few people in the party. If there is an independent media in Vietnam, the investigation would go on," he said.
After being under scrutiny from the media, Truyen apologized to the party and the public. He also gave up some real estate that was wrongfully amassed.
Manh could not be reached for comments. He led Vietnam’s Communist party from 2001 to 2011.
The developments around the former party chief come as the government is conducting a public anti-corruption campaign, with leaders saying it is one of their top priorities.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.