The United States and international media advocacy groups have condemned a Vietnamese court's conviction of two Vietnamese journalists who helped expose a major government corruption scandal.

A spokesperson from the U.S. embassy in Hanoi told reporters Thursday that the guilty verdicts are disappointing and contradict the rights available to journalists under Vietnamese law.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called the trial a terrible step backward for investigative journalism in Vietnam. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called the sentences shameful.

A court in Hanoi on Wednesday sentenced reporter Nguyen Viet Chien of the Thanh Nien (Young People Paper) newspaper to two years in prison for reporting on the graft scandal in the country's Transport Ministry. Nguyen Van Hai of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper was given a two-year re-education sentence, but not jailed.

The court convicted Nguyen Viet Chien of abusing democratic freedoms and infringing on the interests of the state.

Nguyen Van Hai, who also reported on the scandal, pleaded guilty in the case and admitted that some of the information printed in his stories was wrong.

Two former senior police officers also stood trial in the case for deliberately leaking state secrets to the reporters. Former Lieutenant Colonel Dinh Van Huynh was sentenced to a year in jail, while former Major General Pham Xuan Quac received a formal warning.

The officers provided information to the pair of journalists for a series of articles in 2006 about illegal gambling, kickbacks and embezzlement in the Transport Ministry. The scandal led to the resignation of the transportation minister and the arrest of his deputy, along with other officials.

Late last year, however, the transportation deputy was released. He was cleared of all charges in March, and the journalists were arrested shortly afterwards.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.