Vietnamese activists and bloggers stand for sentencing in court. (AFP/Vietnam News Agency)
Bangkok, January 9, 2013–At least five independent bloggers were sentenced today to harsh jail terms in Vietnam, according to local and international news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns this move and calls on Vietnamese authorities to reverse the charges on appeal and release the bloggers.
In a two-day trial, a court in the city of Vinh convicted and sentenced the bloggers on charges of participating in “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and “undermining of national unity” and of participating in “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” news reports said. CPJ research shows that many authoritarian countries resort to such vague state-security charges to justify punishing journalists. Political activists were also convicted on the same charges and sentenced, the reports said. All of the individuals received between three and 13 years in prison, news reports said.
“These harsh sentences demonstrate the outrageous lengths that Vietnamese authorities are willing to go to suppress independent reporting,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “We call on the authorities to reverse these convictions and release all journalists currently held behind bars on spurious national security-related charges.”
Bloggers Paulus Le Van Son, Ho Duc Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu, Nong Hung Anh, and Nguyen Van Duyet were among those convicted, according to a statement released by Viet Tan. The bloggers had been arrested in 2011 and held in pre-trial detention on unspecified charges related to Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at toppling the government. The bloggers were regular contributors to Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication that covers the plight of the country’s persecuted Catholic minority, land disputes between the government and grassroots communities, and other social issues.
News accounts reported that Son, Hoa, and Dieu were sentenced to 13 years in prison and five years’ house arrest; Duyet was sentenced to six years in prison and four years’ house arrest; and Anh was sentenced to five years in prison and three years’ house arrest.
CPJ’s 2012 prison census showed Vietnam held 14 reporters behind bars, making the country the sixth worst jailer of journalists in the world. Thirteen of those 14 imprisoned journalists published predominantly on independent blogs or for other online publications.
For more data and analysis on Vietnam, visit CPJ’s Vietnam page here.