HANOI, Vietnam – Police and security guards beat two journalists from Vietnamese state radio while they were covering the mass eviction of farmers from land slated for a housing project, the journalists and state-controlled media said.
The incident was captured on a video posted on YouTube, which showed police and guards beating and kicking two helmeted men and hitting them with sticks during the high-profile land seizure last month.
Nguyen Ngoc Nam, chief of political and economic news at the Radio Voice of Vietnam, and staff reporter Han Phi Long, came forward this week to describe what happened.
Nam told the Today’s Countryside newspaper he yelled to the security staff that he and his colleague were journalists trying to do their job. “We are journalists, why did you beat us?”
Long was forced to take two weeks off from work for medical treatment, the paper said.
The two reporters and the national radio station have asked provincial authorities for an explanation, but they have not responded, it said.
Provincial officials were not available for comment.
Last week, provincial vice governor Nguyen Khac Hao told a high-level government conference that the case was handled properly, and he accused anti-government activists of trying to paint the incident in a bad light by posting fake video clips.
However, state media on Wednesday quoted another provincial official as saying Hao had not seen the video involving the journalists.
Land rights cases have attracted increased attention in Vietnam in recent years as farmers have been pushed off their land to make way for projects ranging from industrial parks to luxury golf courses.
In the April 24 eviction in Hung Yen province near Hanoi, about 3,000 police and militiamen, many in full riot gear, overpowered more than 1,000 villagers, witnesses say. Authorities detained 20 villagers, and five remain in custody.
A total of 166 families were evicted from 5.8 hectares (14 acres) of land, part of 72.6 hectares (180 acres) allocated for the second phase of the housing project. More than 4,000 families are slated to lose their farmland.