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>> Journalist-related bribery case to be handled justly: police
>> Anti-corruption journalist Hoang Khuong arrested
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>> Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike
According to the board, Hoang Khuong should have been praised for uncovering the corruption case.
Khuong’s guilty of “giving bribes”?
37-year-old Nguyen Van Khuong (penname Hoang Khuong) is a prize-winning journalist famous for exposé articles delving into police corruption. He has been detained since February 2 for investigation regarding his involvement in the bribery case last year.
In their report on the investigation’s results issued May 22 - after more than six months of investigation - police concluded Khuong had “actively suggested the bribery” and handed VND15 million (US$713) to Ton That Hoa, an intermediary, so that Hoa could give it to Hoang Minh Duc, then a traffic police officer in Binh Thanh District, in June 2011.
Duc, 37, has been in police custody pending trial.
“Khuong’s acts were for his personal interest and beyond the scope of necessary journalistic activities that serve coverage,” police said in the conclusion.
The police thus proposed the city Prosecutor’s Office indict Khuong on charges of “giving bribes”.
The acts committed by Khuong and Duc in the bribery case have constituted the charges of “giving bribes” and “taking bribes” respectively, the police’s conclusion reads.
Meanwhile, Khuong has claimed that he did not bribe anyone and that he just made the mistake of handing the money to Duc on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa – an action that was only aimed at obtaining enough evidence for an exposé story about corrupt acts committed by Duc.
The story was published in Tuoi Tre’s Vietnamese-language daily newspaper on July 10, 2011 and on TuoiTreNews (tuoitrenews.vn) with the title “ Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike ” the same day.
Khuong has admitted his mistake and received disciplinary action from Tuoi Tre Newspaper’s editorial board.
Hoa, and two others, Tran Minh Hoa, the motorbike’s owner, and Nguyen Duc Dong Anh, have also been indicted by police for the same charge as Khuong.
Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai: “The arrest and prosecution of Khuong was not based on sufficient judicial grounds.” (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Police’s conclusion not objective
Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai, Khuong’s defense lawyer, rejected the police’s conclusion on Khuong, claiming it was not convincing. “The police have not considered the overall context of the bribery case,” Hoai said.
The case was uncovered thanks to two articles by Hoang Khuong, who had written them under the Tuoi Tre’s editorial board’s policy on preventing traffic accident tragedies.
A journalist, Khuong had carried out various professional activities to collect information and necessary evidence for these articles, and handing the money to Duc on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa was just one of the activities, the lawyer said.
“Therefore, it is groundless for the police to say that Khuong had acted for his personal interest and that Khuong wrote an article against Duc only because the latter did not agree to return the motorbike registration certificate to Tran Minh Hoa.”
Police pay no heed to Khuong’s anti-corruption spirit
In the conclusion, the police failed to have any comments related to Khuong’s contribution to the fight against corruption among traffic police officers through his articles.
The police have also not paid attention to Khuong’s activities in particular and Tuoi Tre’s efforts in introducing many good examples in the police sector in the past. Thus the police have not fully understood the true nature of Khuong’s journalistic activities in this bribery case, Hoai said.
“I earlier demanded that the case be suspended since the reporter has not committed a criminal offense. The arrest and prosecution of Khuong was not based on sufficient judicial grounds.”
“I will put forward my opinions related to each allegation by the police against Khuong and will propose that the HCMC People’s Procuracy and People’s Court review the case.”
Khuong should have been praised
Like lawyer Hoai, the Tuoi Tre editorial board maintained that Khuong did not commit the charge of “giving bribes” and that the police’s conclusion was not convincing in either legal or practical respects.
Tuoi Tre will demand the investigation agency to reconsider the charge they have imposed on Khuong, since his acts were just professional shortcomings during his process of collecting evidence for his articles, the editorial board said.
Journalist Hoang Khuong smiled while police were searching his house (Photo: An Ninh Thu Do)
Khuong’s articles were among a series written by many reporters under the theme “Preventing traffic accident tragedies”, at the request of the editorial board.
Therefore, it is wrong to say Khuong’s evidence-collecting activities were for the sake of his own personal interest, as police said in their conclusion.
Khuong’s mistake can only be handled by administrative measures, since it was not so serious to warrant criminal prosecution, the editorial board said.
The VND15 million used as a bribe was not owned by Khuong and he was not the person who directly handed the money to Duc. Khuong got involved in handing the money to Duc only to collect evidence for Duc’s corrupt acts during his handling of the traffic violation case.
Khuong’s article related to Duc was published with the goal of exposing a corruptive case and contributing to purging corruption from a part of the traffic police and improving the law compliance among law enforcement officers.
Thus, an anti-corruption journalist like Khuong cannot be seen as corrupt and cannot even be charged with “giving bribes”.
In fact, Khuong should have been praised for uncovering the corruption case and should have been exempted from any criminal treatment for his professional mistakes, the editorial board said.
The editorial board demanded that proceeding agencies handle the case in a way that is convincing and acceptable to the public opinion in both legal and practical aspects.
In other news, a corrupt cop exposed by Hoang Khuong in his article “ Cops blatantly take bribes, threaten drivers ” has been released on bail while Khuong himself is still in prison.
After Khuong’s 4-month detention term ended on May 2, police decided to detain him for another three months to “clarify some other issues”. Efforts to bail out Khuong have so far been unsuccessful.