Journalist targeted for comments on air crashes
Vietnam Right Now - June 24, 2016
A prominent journalist has been dismissed by his newspaper, and could face criminal charges, over comments he posted about the crashes earlier this month of an air force jet and a coast guard plane that was sent to search for survivors.
Mai Phan Loi, one of six civil society activists allowed to meet President Obama during his visit in May, has already been subjected to repeated interrogations by police and had his press card revoked by the authorities.
There are calls in state media for him to be prosecuted under Article 258 – on charges of abusing democratic freedoms to damage the interests of the state.
His treatment reflects the acute embarrassment and sensitivity of the government over the loss of the two aircraft, at a time when it is trying to build up military defences to confront China in the South China Sea.
The Russian made Sukhoi Su-30 MK2 fighter crashed while patrolling off the northern coast on June 14 with the loss of one of its two man crew. The Airbus-manufactured Casa-212 aircraft crashed two days later, with the loss of all nine crew, while taking part in the search operation.
Mai Phan Loi was a senior editor for the Ho Chi Minh City Legal Daily and the founder of the Young Journalists’ Forum, a Facebook page with 12,000 members from all sections of the media.
He created on an
online poll on the site canvassing opinions as to why the aircraft had crashed.
Loi was accused of “unethical conduct” in a series of articles in Petro Times, a newspaper run by a retired police general. Officials at the defence ministry accused him of libel.
has so far remained silent about the causes of the crashes, contributing to
public anxiety about the performance of the defence forces at a time of
increased military tension with China.
He issued an apology for any offence caused by the online survey, but that has not appeased the anger of officials who have accused him of offending the honour of the military and damaging the reputation of journalists.
Activists have speculated that the journalist is also being targeted for his decision to accept the invitation to meet President Obama.