ProtectDefenders.eu partners have strongly condemned the sentencing of independent human rights journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan in Vietnam. On 5 January 2021, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City found Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan guilty of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Pham Chi Dung was sentenced to 15 years in prison and three years’ house arrest. Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan were each sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years’ house arrest.
Pham Chi Dung, 55, is the founder of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a civil society organisation that promotes the freedom of the press and the right to freedom of expression in Vietnam. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, 69, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, 31, are IJAVN members.
Pham Chi Dung has been arbitrarily detained since November 2019, on charges of writing “anti-State articles” and “cooperating with foreign media to deliver distorted information”. In particular, he had sent a video message to members of the European Parliament urging them to postpone ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) pending human rights progress in Vietnam. Shortly after his arrest, IJAVN’s website (www.vietnamthoibao.org ) was shut down by the authorities. Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan were arrested on 23 May and 12 June 2020, respectively, on charges under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
According to RSF, as Vietnam’s media all follow the Communist Party’s orders, the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher harsh forms of persecution, including plainclothes police violence. To justify jailing them, the Party resorts increasingly to articles of the criminal code, under which “activities aimed at overthrowing the government,” “anti-state propaganda” and “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state” are punishable by long prison terms. The country is ranked 175 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.