A TV screen set up in a courthouse shows Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Viet Chien during his trial in Hanoi on Oct. 14, 2008. Chien was charged with 'abusing freedom and democratic rights.' ((Vu Tien Hong/ Associated Press))

A well-known journalist in Vietnam who wrote anti-corruption stories has been released as part of the country's annual Lunar New Year amnesty.

On Jan. 15, President Nguyen Minh Triet signed the papers to release more than 15,000 prisoners, including Nguyen Viet Chien of the Thanh Nien newspaper.

Public security vice-minister Le The Tiem said Friday that all the prisoners on the list would be liberated Saturday. 

"It is a huge joy for us after a year of trouble," said Chien's son, Nguyen Tuan.

"This has come at a good time because my father is not in good health. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who supported him during this difficult year."

The 56-year-old reporter was given a two-year jail term in October after he reported on a major corruption case.

Chien was charged last May with "abusing freedom and democratic rights" while covering what is popularly known as the PMU-18 scandal, in which government officials at the Ministry of Transport were accused of misusing public funds.

The trial of Chien and another colleague, Nguyen Van Hai, drew criticism from rights organizations.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called the trial outcome a "terrible step backwards for investigative journalism in Vietnam."

Hai pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial and was handed a sentence of two years of re-education without detention.

But Chien maintained he was not guilty and received a harsher penalty.