Dismayed to learn that a Hanoi appeal court upheld Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang’s nine-year jail sentence after she refused to plead guilty to “anti-state propaganda,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Vietnam’s commercial partners, including the European Union and United States, to use their trade agreements with Hanoi to press for the release of this journalist, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2019.

“The confirmation of Pham Doan Trang’s sentence is unfortunately no surprise, given the degree to which Vietnam’s judicial system is under the thumb of ruling party apparatchiks,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Her fight for a free press for all transcends Vietnam’s borders and is the fight for a universal right. This is why we urge Hanoi’s business partners, especially the EU and the United States, to impose targeted sanctions on the Vietnamese officials responsible for this journalist's unacceptable fate."

Trang’s own mother was denied admission to today’s hearing at which the Hanoi High People’s Court upheld her nine-year jail sentence on appeal. Imprisoned since October 2020, Trang was convicted last December of “anti-state propaganda” or, as the prosecution put it, “mendacious” articles and statements in the media.

“History will erase her sentence”

Trang refused to plead guilty, which would have been the only way to obtain a possible reduction in her sentence. One of her lawyers, Trinh Vinh Phuc, told the court: “If the defence’s arguments and the outcry from many international human rights organisations have not changed your view, then condemn her. History will erase her sentence.”

Trinh Huu Long, the journalist who is the spokesman of her support committee, told RSF he had harboured no illusions about the outcome of this appeal hearing.

“Both she and I had been prepared for the day she would go to jail,” he said. “This is the price for being a journalist who tells the truth in Vietnam. What upsets me is that she is not allowed to see her 81-year-old mother. And that she is suffering from several illnesses in prison.”

Death in detention

Trang has been completely cut off from her family and friends during the nearly two years that she has already been jailed. She is suffering from the after-effects of the Covid-19 infection she caught in prison, as well chronic sinusitis, arthritis and gynaecological problems.

Conditions in Vietnam’s prisons are appalling, to the point that the blogger Do Cuong Dong died in detention on 2 August as a result of the mistreatment he had received since his arrest.

The founder of the online magazines Luat Khoa and The Vietnamese, Trang was awarded the RSF Press Freedom “Prize for Impact” in 2019 for her fight to make freely and independently reported news and information available to as many people as possible.

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