Chief-editor prosecuted under Article 258

Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa, former chief-editor of the Nguoi Cao Tuoi [the Elderly], has just been prosecuted for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the State’s interests, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, two months after he was removed from his post.

The Investigative Body of the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security on Monday (May 11, 2015) announced its decision to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa as the accused and to search his residence.

The police investigators accused him of “publishing and allowing [the newspaper] to publish some articles with false contents that badly affect the prestige of some organizations and citizens,” and this constitutes the violation of Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, they said.

Had there not been a sudden inspection by the Ministry of Information and Communication, Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa may have been granted an award for his efforts to fight corruption.

Had there not been a sudden inspection by the Ministry of Information and Communication, Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa may have been granted an award for his efforts to fight corruption.

Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa (b. 1945) used to serve in the Northern Vietnam’s military in the war before he became a journalist. During his journalistic career, he was editor-in-chief for several newspapers in Vietnam, of which, the Nguoi Cao Tuoi is the most well-known one. Led by Kim Quoc Hoa since 2007 until his removal in March, the Nguoi Cao Tuoi is known as one of the most vocal and straightforward newspapers in Vietnam in fighting corruption.

Writer Vo Thi Hao, in an article for the RFA, quoted a document signed by the head of the Vietnamese Elderly Association as praising Kim Quoc Hoa and his newspaper for their anti-corruption coverage, “Within just eight years, from 2007 to 2014, the newspaper exposed more than 2,500 cases of corruption and wrongdoings from the grass-root level upward.”

Some of the most widely-known cases revealed by the Nguoi Cao Tuoi included the sex scandal of Nguyen Truong To, a high-rank official, in 2009. Nguyen Truong To, then party chief and chairman of the Ha Giang People’s committee, had sexual intercourse with some high school students, and some of his naked photos were even spread on the Internet. The scandal was a harsh blow on the image of communist officials in Vietnam, who, under the Party’s line, always must portray themselves as decent people living a moral life.

The most recent case of corruption that the Nguoi Cao Tuoi reported on involved the “inexplicable assets” owned by Tran Van Truyen, former chief government inspector. Following the newspaper’s coverage of the case in 2014, the Vietnamese Elderly Association in early this year was about to nominate Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa for an award of merit.

However, a sudden inspection by the Ministry of Information and Communication discovered some alleged “wrongdoings” committed by the newspaper between January 2013 and October 2014, and then the police were sent in. Mr. Kim Quoc Hoa was removed from his post on March 12, 2015.