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Best of Slow Journalism: Terror in Little Saigon

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

“They told him they were going to take him out”

Tu Nguyen’s father was one of five Vietnamese-American journalists assassinated between 1981 and 1990. No one was ever charged with their murder. But now the investigation has been reopened thanks to a compelling and meticulously researched investigation by US news organisations ProPublica and Frontline, led by journalist AC Thompson.

‘Terror in Little Saigon’ chronicles the political violence which occurred in Vietnamese-American communities across the US in the 1980s. Despite countless leads and a plethora of evidence, the FBI officially closed its investigation in the late 1990s having made no arrests for the journalist murders. By poring over thousands of pages of newly declassified FBI documents, uncovering new leads and finding new witnesses, ProPublica and Frontline aim to help the victims’ families in their ongoing pursuit of justice.

The story begins after the end of the Vietnam War, when many Vietnamese fled to America in search of better lives. Among the refugee population a group was formed, the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, who were determined to eventually return to their homeland and retake it from the Communists. Over time the group became increasingly violent – and when five journalists criticised the Front in small Vietnamese-American publications, they paid with their lives.

The article is the product of a collaboration between two award-winning US nonprofit organisations dedicated to producing investigative journalism in the public interest. This powerful story about a conflict within a community needs to be told, especially since it was barely reported – or effectively investigated – at the time of the killings.

Terror in Little Saigon can be read here.

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