Vietnam anti-graft award-winning journalist arrested: Reports

HANOI - Vietnam has arrested a prize-winning investigative journalist who made his name exposing corruption in the communist country on suspicion of taking bribes, state media reported on Thursday.

Vo Thanh Tung, 31, who works for Ho Chi Minh City's Law newspaper, was detained on Wednesday after allegedly being caught receiving cash from a bar owner in southern Bien Hoa city, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

Police detained Mr Tung - who is well-known for his investigative work, most recently on the entertainment industry - and searched his house, confiscating "a baton, a taser, handcuffs, computers, cameras and documents," the report said.

Two of Mr Tung's stringers, who had worked on his investigative reports, were also arrested, it added.

Mr Tung, who goes by the pen name Duy Dong, had written many acclaimed investigative pieces and his series uncovering bribery of traffic police by truck and bus drivers won a prize at the Ho Chi Minh City press awards in June.

The Ho Chi Minh City's Law newspaper confirmed its reporter had been held, but did not give further details.

Communist Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

Some journalists working at state-run media have become increasingly tenacious in their reporting in recent years, but face constant pressure from authorities and often risk prosecution if they push too hard.

In September last year, a crusading anti-corruption journalist with the Tuoi Tre newspaper was jailed for four years for bribing police during an undercover investigation into graft in a case that prompted a public outcry.

In 2008, a reporter was jailed for two years after exposing corruption in the country's transport ministry.

The high-profile prosecution sent a chill through the country's ranks of journalists and prompted condemnation from international media watchdogs.

Vietnam, branded an "enemy of the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders, ranks among the worst countries in the world on press freedom.

Watchdogs say dozens of journalists and bloggers are currently being held in Vietnamese jails.

So far this year, 46 activists have been convicted of anti-state activity and sentenced to often lengthy jail terms under what rights groups say are vaguely defined articles of the penal code.

At least three bloggers were also taken into custody in June alone, all accused of anti-state activity.

The country has recently revealed a sweeping new Internet law which will ban bloggers and social media users from sharing news stories online, in a move seen as a further crackdown on online freedom in the authoritarian country.

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" about the decree.

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