WASHINGTON DC —
A Vietnamese anti-graft newspaper has responded strongly to allegations of "abusing democratic freedoms" and “leaking state secrets” in a rare public showdown for the country's tightly controlled media industry.
Nguoi Cao Tuoi, or The Elderly, said Tuesday the accusations against it were based on hasty conclusions that are slanderous.
The paper's website, which has been at the forefront of an intense anti-corruption campaign, was taken offline and inaccessible Tuesday. But the print edition apparently continues even though the editor in chief has had his press card revoked and his job put in jeopardy following a government decision to launch criminal proceedings against the newspaper.
Despite representing clients in legal cases against the paper, Lawyer Tran Vu Hai told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that the action is “problematic and unfair.”
“The authorities were very slow acting on corruption cases that the newspaper exposed, and consequently, the penalty was very light." He added, "It is unfair, as some cases have gone on for years while the chief editor was punished immediately in a harsh way," he said.
Meanwhile, a senior editor at a popular daily newspaper, who wished to remain anonymous, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that it is unclear what triggered the probe. But he said The Elderly has been quite blunt in its investigative reports.
In recent years, The Elderly has launched a massive investigation into misuse of state funds, leading to reprimands for several senior officials.
Human rights groups have criticized Vietnam for keeping tight control over press freedom, a charge Hanoi always denies.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.