Vietnamese court sentences “Clean Newspaper” journalists to long prison terms – Radio Free Asia


A court in southern Vietnam on Thursday sentenced five independent journalists to lengthy prison terms after a two-day trial, putting them behind bars for a total of 14 years and six months for writing articles which authorities say defamed government leaders.

Members of the now closed Clean Newspaper Facebook group had been charged under clause 2 of Article 331 of the Vietnamese Penal Code with “abusing the rights to liberty and democracy to violate the interests of the State and the rights and legitimate interests of organizations and individuals ”.

Sentenced to the heaviest sentence, journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh was sentenced to four years and six months, while Doan Kien Giang and Le The Thang were sentenced to three years each, and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao and Nguyen Thanh Nha each received a two-year sentence. .

The five men will also be banned from working as journalists for three years after serving their prison terms, the Can Tho city court said.

“The sentence in particular for Truong Chau Huu Danh was too severe and the penalties used under section 331 are too severe,” freelance journalist Duong Van Thai told RFA after the trial. “Authoritarian countries will give someone a harsh verdict if they want to destroy him,” he said.

“In fact, the Communist regime does not want to listen to any critical and dissenting voices,” Thai said. “They only like praise, hate criticism, and don’t like new ideas.”

“They are never indulgent with political dissidents and always impose much harsher penalties on them. It is the easiest way for the Vietnamese communist regime to take revenge, ”he said.

Thai added that the group may have received particularly harsh sentences because of their reports of infighting between Communist Party leaders, including a series of stories they wrote about the former provincial secretary of the Communist Party. Dak Lak party, Bui Van Cuong.

Cuong, now secretary general of the Vietnamese National Assembly, had been accused by two professors at Ton Duc Thang University of plagiarism while finishing his work for his doctorate. The two lecturers were themselves later arrested.

Clean Newspaper journalists also posted online criticism of the January 9, 2020 raid by security forces in a land dispute in Dong Tam commune, outside Hanoi, in which a village elder was shot by police.

Other articles had criticized the largely unpopular Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) highway programs adopted by Vietnam in recent years, which sparked rare protests against toll collections described by motorists as unfair.

“Not enemies of the state”

The Vietnamese government should recognize that citizen journalists and independent media are “allies of good governance, not enemies of the state,” Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said in a statement. press release Tuesday, one day before the start of the trial.

“Throwing more citizen journalists in jail will not stop people from complaining or demanding reforms in Vietnam,” said Robertson.

In a statement after the trial, Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific office of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), based in Paris, said that the Vietnamese authorities have now given “further evidence of their determination to suppress any attempt to provide freely published information. and information. “

“Worse still, by completely prohibiting them from exercising their profession, [the judges] showed how little consideration Vietnamese leaders give to journalism. These five journalists have no place in prison, ”said Bastard.

Vietnam is ranked 175e out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for 2021.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance for dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, editors and Facebook figures as authorities continued to stifle criticism ahead of the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. Arrests continue in 2021.

Reported by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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