The Associated Press February 1, 2011, 11:00AM ET

Vietnamese police urged to find reporter's killer

International human rights groups called on Vietnamese police to quickly find the attacker who barged into a journalist's bedroom and set him on fire while he was sleeping

The calls Tuesday followed the death of veteran newspaper reporter Le Hoang Hung, 50, on Jan. 29 from severe burns suffered during the attack.

Both organizations expressed concerns that Hung's aggressive reporting at the Laborer newspaper in the southern Mekong Delta may have prompted the attack.

"Media killings are rare in Vietnam, and authorities should act to ensure that a culture of impunity does not begin to take root," Shawn Crispin, of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

The state-controlled Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported that Hung had recently been covering corruption and cross-border smuggling issues and that he had received threatening messages on his mobile phone prior to the attack. A colleague at his paper said his assailants may have been motivated by revenge, but local media have reported Hung saying that he did not have any enemies.

"This brutal attack is an affront to free speech and press freedom in an already restrictive environment of government control and censorship," the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists said in a statement Tuesday.

Hung suffered burns on half of his body after an intruder came into his bedroom on Jan. 19, doused him with a chemical and set him fire in his bed. He was taken to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City where he was treated for third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body. Photos of his bedroom showed a charred wall along with a blackened mattress covered in ash.

Police are still investigating.

All local media in Vietnam are state-controlled, and journalists are severely restricted. A number of reporters and bloggers have been jailed in recent years after writing pieces critical of Vietnam's one-party Communist government.


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