|*** NEWS FROM THE COMMITTEE
TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS ***
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
VIETNAM: Imprisoned journalist offered exile as condition for release
New York, July 16, 2003-A top Vietnamese
government official has said that
imprisoned writer and publisher Nguyen Dan Que would be released
only if he
agrees to leave Vietnam permanently and live in exile, according
to aSunday, July 13, report from the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia
(RFA) confirmedby CPJ.
RFA reported that Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the
late May during a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Raymond
Burghardt. But Que's brother, Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, told CPJ that
Que to refuse to leave his country even though he may face trial
Que, a 61-year old endocrinologist, is a prominent writer who was
for the third time on March 17 in Ho Chi Minh City as part of an
crackdown on free expression. Days earlier, he had issued a statement
criticizing the government's harsh restrictions on the media and
political reform. In the statement, titled "Communiqué
on Freedom of Information in Vietnam," Que wrote that, "The
state hopes to cling to power by brain-washing the Vietnamese people
through stringent censorship and through its absolutist control
over what information the public can receive."
No one from his family has been allowed to see Que since his arrest,
and Ambassador Burghardt's request for a visit was also denied,
according to Quan.
"Nguyen Dan Que should not be driven into exile as a condition
for his release," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "Que's
writings express a deep desire to reform his country from within,
and the fact that he has remained in Vietnam despite suffering years
of imprisonment and harassment is proof of great patriotism."
Que has spent a total of 18 years in prison for political activism
since his first arrest in 1978. Quan told CPJ that Que refused a
similar offer of exile when he was amnestied from prison in 1998,
telling him at that time that "exile is not freedom."
The years in prison have taken a toll on Que's health; he suffers
from hypertension and a peptic ulcer.
Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said in a press release yesterday that
it had no information about an offer for the release for Que, that
gathering more evidence on his case, and that he would be tried
in accordance with Vietnamese law.
Que is one of eight journalists currently imprisoned in Vietnam.
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that
safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information about press
conditions in Vietnam, visit www.cpj.org.