A Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter filed a complaint to Hanoi police on Monday following several unwarranted penalties against him after he was assaulted by a police officer while reporting a suicide jumper in the capital.
Tuoi Tre has also sent a letter the same day to relevant authorities demanding a review of the penalties imposed on its reporter and a reassessment of the nature of the incident.
On the morning of September 23, Tuoi Tre reporter Quang The, as assigned by the newspaper, arrived at Nhat Tan Bridge in Hanoi to report on the suicide of a taxi driver who had jumped from the bridge.
Nhat Tan Bridge, spanning 3.9 kilometers in length, connects the capital districts of Tay Ho and Dong Anh.
Seeing no visible police lines, Quang The approached the scene to take photos before he was stopped by a uniformed officer.
Quang The then moved about 30 meters from the scene and started taking photos from afar when he was approached by another young man in plain clothes, who was later identified as Dong Anh District police officer Ngo Quang Hung.
After an exchange between the two, the officer was caught on camera punching and kicking Quang The. The footage later surfaced online and attracted many viewers, most of whom condemned the officer’s violence against the reporter.
Tuoi Tre reporter Quang The (L) is approached by plain-clothes police officers on Nhat Tan Bridge, Hanoi, September 23, 2016. Photo: Thanh Nien
Tuoi Tre reporter Quang The (L) is kicked by police officer Ngo Quang Hung (in black) on Nhat Tan Bridge, Hanoi, September 23, 2016. Photo: Thanh Nien
Quang The said he suffered from nausea and a bloody mouth from the assault, and had gone straight to a local police station to report the case.
On the afternoon of the same day, Colonel Pham Nam Thang from the Criminal Police Division of Dong Anh District police, where officer Ngo Quang Hung worked, made an official apology to Quang The at the representative office of Tuoi Tre in Hanoi.
Colonel Thang admitted to the “inappropriate behavior” of his man, attributing the officer’s actions to his youth and “pressure while responding on the scene with many curious onlookers."
However, in an official press statement made on Thursday last week, Deputy Director of Hanoi Police Colonel Nguyen Duy Ngoc said the police officer in question only “brushed his hand against reporter Quang The’s cheek and attempted, but missed, a kick at the reporter."
Tay Ho District police later fined Quang The a total of VND14,405,000 (US$643) for several administrative violations including trespassing on a restricted area, photographing in restricted areas, insulting a state officer on duty, abusing his status as a reporter or journalist to intervene in legal activities, illegal parking, and failure to obey traffic regulators.
According to legal experts, most of the penalties are unfounded or wrong, as there were no police lines at the suicide scene to mark restricted areas, while Quang The could not have known the assaulter was a police officer since he neither wore uniform nor presented a badge.
Even if the charges were correct, a report on the violations must have been made at the scene in order for the penalties to be legitimate, experts say.
Quang The admitted to the illegal parking charge, but claimed he was innocent of the other violations held against him.
In his complaint, the reporter demanded that Tay Ho District police revoke the penalties in order to avoid a wrongful conviction and public confusion.
Footage of the assault on Tuoi Tre reporter Quang The by a Dong Anh District police officer on Nhat Tan Bridge, Hanoi, September 23, 2016. Photo: Thanh Nien