Combined jail terms of five Vietnamese journalists total nearly 15 years
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the sentences of up to four and a half years in prison that a court in the city of Can Tho, in southern Vietnam, has just passed on five journalists who produced an online newspaper specialising in coverage of corruption and related issues. The authorities have stepped up their persecution of Vietnam’s independent media, RSF says.
Confirmed by pro-government media, the verdict and sentences were issued today by the Thoi Lai district people’s court after a three-day hearing.
Truong Chau Huu Danh, the founder and editor of Bao Sach (“The Clean Newspaper”), was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, while Doan Kien Giang and Le The Thang were given three-year jail terms, and Nguyen Thanh Nha and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao were each sentenced to two years in jail. The combined jail terms totalled 14 years and six months.
The five journalists were convicted under article 331 of the penal code, which penalises Vietnamese citizens who “abuse their democratic freedoms.” Unusually in this type of trial, the court also banned them from exercising any kind of journalistic activity for three years after completing their jail terms.
“By imposing such long jail terms on the five Bao Sach journalists, the Vietnamese authorities have given new evidence of their determination to suppress any attempt to provide freely reported news and information,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Worse still, by banning them from practising their trade altogether, the Thoi Lai court’s judges have shown what little account Vietnam’s leaders take of journalism. These five journalists have no place being in prison.”
As RSF reported at the time, Danh was arrested on 17 December 2020, while Nha, Giang and Bao were picked up by police on 20 April 2021, and Thang was placed under house arrest.
The decision to pass such long jail terms on the Bao Sach journalists follows the government’s adoption of a much harsher approach to independent journalism after Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, succeeded in imposing his conservative hard line on the party in early 2021.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.