The Ministry of Public Security has called for surveillance, preventive measures and strict measures against wrongdoings by police officials in the execution of their duties.
"There have been positive developments where police officials have set outstanding examples, like those willing to fight and die to keep society safe, but there have also been cases of wrongdoing in some localities that have frustrated the public," the ministry said in a directive posted on the government website early this week.
The directive mentioned several reasons for the wrongdoings, including loose management by leaders of local police agencies, lack of motivation among some police officials to improve themselves, and incompetency.
The ministry ordered timely detection and strict action taken against offending officials in a process that is transparent and unbiased.
The directive said once the media reports about wrongdoings committed by a police official, the head of his office is responsible for verifying the allegations, imposing penalties and sending feedback to the media.
In case the media reports are wrong or inaccurate, the head of the accused official's office have to ask the concerned media agency or agencies to issue a disclaimer and, depending on the degree of wrong coverage, propose "suitable punitive measures," it said.
Carlyle Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said the messenger should be more prudent in this context.
"The press should set its own professional standards and hold its members to account. Editors can issue retractions and apologies if necessary," Thayer said. "Legal proceeding should only be instituted in cases where a journalist knowingly published without proper sources or where a journalist deliberately fabricated information (criminal libel)."
The directive follows several cases that have spotlighted corrupt and brutal actions by police officers, including accepting bribes and beating suspects to death.
Last month, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper published an investigative series exposing traffic police in several provinces who were soliciting and receiving bribes from truck drivers.
They found that the drivers were asked to pay between VND50,000-5 million (US$2.4-240.38) at most police posts, whenever they were found violating regulations like speeding and overloading their vehicles, a common practice.
Following the report, Pham Duc Hai, the editor-in-chief of the HCMC-based newspaper, met with Deputy Minister of Public Security Pham Quy Ngo in Hanoi, the paper reported on September 19.
Lieutenant General Ngo hailed the paper for exposing the "negative actions" of the involved traffic policemen and said: "I request the media, including Tuoi Tre, to notify the Ministry of Public Security's leaders before reporting negative and wrongful acts involving officials in the [police] force."
Ngo also requested the paper to carry more reports on outstanding police officers.
In a recent action against abusive police officials, a court in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang on Monday (October 3) sentenced Vo Van Ut Deo, former deputy chief police of the province's Nga Nam Town, to two years in jail following the death of a local man in March.
Two of his subordinates received eight and four-year sentences and a militiaman got two years, after all them were found guilty of "deliberate assault."
On March 30, 44-year-old Tran Van Du was taken to the local police station, headed by Deo, after some locals reported that the former had beaten up his own mother. Two policemen and the militiaman beat up Du badly and Deo later told them to leave Du outside the station, where he was found dead by a passer-by later in the day.