GENEVA (25 September 2012) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday expressed deep concern about the conviction and harsh sentencing of three prominent Vietnamese journalists and bloggers, noting this reflected a trend of increasing restrictions on freedom of expression in Viet Nam, especially against those who use the Internet to voice their criticisms.
On Monday, Mr. Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Dieu Cay) received 12 years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation, Ms. Ta Phong Tan received ten years’ imprisonment and three years’ probation, and Mr. Pan Thanh Hai four years’ imprisonment and three years’ probation. The three were convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the State under article 88 of the Penal Code, for posting articles on the website of the Vietnamese Club of Free Journalists, of which they are prominent members.
“The harsh prison terms handed down to bloggers exemplify the severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Viet Nam,” Pillay said, adding that the fact that the court’s decision came after only a few hours of deliberation raises further questions about the defendants’ right to due process and a fair trial. Pillay also expressed concern about reports that several supporters were detained and prevented from attending the trial.
In 2009, during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Viet Nam’s human rights record, the State accepted a number of recommendations on freedom of expression, including one to “fully guarantee the right to receive, seek and impart information and ideas in compliance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
“Monday’s verdicts are an unfortunate development that undermines the commitments Viet Nam has made internationally, including during the UPR, to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression,” the High Commissioner said.