Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Media watchdog criticises Vietnam harassment

Jul 12, 2011

Vietnamese protesters walk past the Opera House during an anti-China rally in downtown Hanoi on July 3, 2011 amid an ongoing territorial row in the South China Sea. -- PHOTO: AFP

HANOI - VIETNAM must stop harassing media reporting on public protests, an independent US-based press watchdog said on Tuesday, after three correspondents were briefly detained at an anti-China rally.

'Journalists are not pawns to be used in Vietnam's dealings with China,' Shawn Crispin, the senior South-east Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

'Vietnam should allow free reporting of these protests.' The Vietnamese journalists, working for the Associated Press of the United States and Japan's NHK television and Asahi Shimbun, were among at least 10 people detained when police dispersed a rally on Sunday in Hanoi sparked by tensions in the South China Sea.

'Reporters had previously been permitted to photograph and film the small rallies which had been held in the national capital on five consecutive Sundays,' CPJ said.

Political protests are not common in authoritarian Vietnam, but the unprecedented rallies against China occurred after Hanoi in late May accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting the exploration cables of an oil survey ship inside Hanoi's exclusive economic zone.

The two communist neighbours have long been at odds over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly island groups, which straddle vital commercial shipping lanes in the South China Sea. -- AFP

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