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Vietnam journalists charged with 'abusing freedom and democracy'

[JURIST] Vietnamese journalists Nguyen Van Hai of Tuoi Tre news agency [media website, in Vietnamese] and Nguyen Viet Chien of Thanh Nien news agency [media website] have been charged with "abusing freedom and democracy" and will face up to seven years in prison if convicted at trial next month in the Hanoi People's Court, state media outlets reported Tuesday. The reporters were arrested [JURIST report] in May on suspicion of abuse of power and divulgation of false information [AFP report, in French] in connection with their uncovering of the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST report; Tuoi Tre news archive, in Vietnamese]. Newspaper Nguoi Lao Dong [media website, in Vietnamese] reported that two police officers who acted as sources for the story will also be tried for "deliberately revealing State secrets." AP has more.

Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien reported on illegal gambling and corruption [JURIST news archive] within Project Management Unit (PMU) 18, a Vietnamese agency responsible for the construction of roads and bridges that receives aid from the World Bank and other countries. Their work triggered an investigation that led to the Hanoi People's Court's August 2007 convictions [JURIST report] of former Vietnamese government officials. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Vietnamese government [HRW report] to end efforts "to silence independent bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders" and to enforce the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association under the Vietnamese Constitution [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text].

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