Jail term upheld after journalist revokes appeal

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The Supreme People's Court suspended an appeals trial for a journalist who had been sentenced earlier to seven years in jail for extortion, on Tuesday (November 22).

The decision was made after the accused revoked his appeal.

Phan Ha Binh (known as Ha Phan), former deputy managing editor of Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper's rep office in Ho Chi Minh City, was sentenced at a trial on August 25.

Binh, 42, was found guilty of abusing his power to extort around US$11,500 from the Saigon-Tan Ky Cement Investment Joint Stock Company and the Luong Tai Investment and Construction Joint Stock Company.

Binh admitted his actions at the first trial, and appealed the seven-year sentence in September.

According to the HCMC People's Court, in September 2010, Binh, who was a reporter at that time, collected information about some projects invested in by the Saigon Investment Group's member companies.

He then asked Nguyen Cam Phuong, chief representative of the Saigon-Tan Ky company in HCMC, to pay him for not writing unfavorable stories about the company.

After Phuong refused, Binh published three articles about the company between September and October 2010. 

He then contacted Phuong again, saying that he would stop publishing stories if she paid him VND220 million ($10,500), and that he would write an article favorable to her company if she paid him another $3,000.

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Phuong reported the extortion to the company executives as well as the police, and told Binh she would pay him VND220 million.

On October 13 last year, police caught Binh red-handed receiving money from Phuong at a restaurant in HCMC.

During the investigation, the HCMC-based Luong Tai Investment and Construction Company reported to the police that Binh had extracted $1,000 from the company using the same ploy.

Binh's family later returned all the money to the court.

Hailing from the central province of Binh Dinh, Binh specialized in economics and business stories, and was appointed to the position of deputy managing editor of Tien Phong's southern office in October last year, according to local news website VnExpress.

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