03/11/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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New defamation campaign by Hanoi media against Catholics of Thai Ha

by Emily Nguyen
It is feared that this activity is paving the way for new attacks against the faithful. The attitude of the media comes together with acts of intimidation against the lawyer in charge of a lawsuit by parishioners against a newspaper and a television station for false reporting on their trial.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese state media are launching a defamation campaign against the Catholics of Hanoi, and this is leading to suspicions that new attacks are being prepared against them. This explains the depiction as a continuation of disturbance of the peace being made of the request for justice advanced by parishioners of Thai Ha who were sentenced in December for "damaging state property" and "disorderly conduct," because they participated in prayer vigils calling for "justice" and the restitution of land confiscated from the church, and of their request that the state media correct the false reporting on their trial.

In particular, those sentenced are asking the newspaper Ha Nôi Moi and Vietnam Television 1 to correct the reports. The defendants and witnesses in the trial say that all of those charged said they were not guilty in court. But the two media outlets reported that "all of those charged admitted their guilt, acknowledging that they had carried out actions in violation of the law." It should be added that the authors of the reports have also received a prize, under the patronage of the secretary of the Communist Party in Hanoi, Pham Quang Nghi.

In reply to the requests of the Catholics, the New Hanoi on February 27 refused to correct what it had published: the following day, the online edition of the newspaper published an article accusing the plaintiffs of Thai Ha of refusing to "wake up to reality." A week later, on March 5, Vietnam Television 1 rejected the request.

In general, the objective of the state media is becoming clear: to depict the lawsuit by the Catholics as groundless before public opinion, and to paint the plaintiffs as stubborn defendants who not only refuse to respect the sentence of the People's Tribunal of Hanoi, but also continue to provoke public disturbance by insisting that the media correct what they describe as a clear "distortion of the truth."

To all of this must be added the campaign of intimidation underway against the lawyer Le Tran Luat, who is handling the lawsuit advanced by the Catholics. Last week, the lawyer was stopped by police at Tan Son Nhat airport, as he was preparing to leave Ho Chi Minh City for Hanoi, in order to prepare the lawsuit against Ha Nôi Moi and Vietnam Television 1. Prior to this, his office was searched, one of his collaborators was stopped and subjected to a lengthy interrogation, the Attorneys' Association put him under accusation, the Security newspaper of Ho Chi Minh City accused him of fraudulent income, and an anonymous phone caller told him to break off the lawsuit.

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