A freelance journalist in authoritarian Vietnam has narrowly escaped death after being beaten unconscious by eight policemen near Ho Chi Minh City, an international media watchdog and his wife said on Tuesday.
Truong Minh Duc was ambushed by the policemen in Thu Dau Mot, a town 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam and then beaten after trying unsuccessfully to flee into a nearby cafeteria, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a report.
The group said it was “appalled by the brutality of the attack.”
It quoted witnesses as saying that the police continued to hit Duc repeatedly with a helmet, even after he lost consciousness.
The motive of the attack on Nov. 2 was unclear.
Duc’s wife Thanh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that her husband was discharged after nearly a week of treatment at the Hoan My Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
“He is back home after being in the hospital for six days. He is now relatively stable but still has to take medicine and go to revisit [doctors] because it hurts again if he stops taking the medicine,” she said.
She said Duc had identified the man who took his bag and beat him the most as one Lt. Colonel Hoa, who is said to have harassed him in the past.
“He was beaten so harshly that he could not see everyone who attacked him but Lt. Col. Hoa was the one in command,” she said.
A relative said Duc “narrowly escaped death,” according to Reporters Without Borders.
“We are shocked by the brutality with which the police treat their fellow citizens,” said Benjamin Ismail, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“Such police violence against bloggers and citizen-journalists is common and is becoming more frequent throughout the country. So these are probably not isolated acts but the result of a terror policy instigated by the [ruling] Communist Party.”
Reporters Without Borders called on the international community “to lose no time in doing whatever is necessary to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities to end this systematic persecution of those who defend freedom of the media and information.”
The media watchdog said acts of violence and intimidation in Vietnam were common not only against journalists and bloggers but also those who support them.
France’s consul-general in Ho Chin Minh City was attacked by police on Nov. 5 when he tried to help Pham Minh Hoang, a blogger who was being harassed by thugs and plainclothesmen, it said.
Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.