February 2, 2018

Four years in prison for Vietnamese blogger

The blogger Ho Van Hai was arrested more than a year ago. Nguyen Van Dai (right, archive photo) has been held in appalling conditions for more than two years (photos: RFA - Reuters).
After Vietnamese blogger Ho Van Hai’s four-year jail sentence at the end of secret trial yesterday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to step up its pressure on Vietnam to end its repeated violations of the freedom to inform.

Charged with “anti-state propaganda” under 88 of the penal code, Hai, 52, was sentenced to four years in prison followed by two years of house arrest. After being held for more than a year, he was tried behind closed doors in Ho Chi Minh City without his lawyers being present.

Hai was arrested on 2 November 2016 for blogging about education and the environment, and above all for drawing attention to a toxic spill from a steel plant owned by the Taiwanese company Formosa that poisoned millions of fish.

“Yet again, a citizen has been severely punished just for trying to inform civil society in a country where all the media are closely controlled,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“It is high time to end this terrible crackdown on citizen-journalists that began nearly two years ago. We urge the international community to remind Vietnam, a UN Human Rights Council member, of its obligations. We also call on its trade partners to open their eyes to how Vietnam suppresses freedom of information, and to draw the appropriate conclusions.”

The European Parliament adopted an urgent resolution in December 2017 calling on the Vietnamese authorities to stop persecuting citizen-journalists and to free all the imprisoned bloggers.

More than 25 bloggers were imprisoned, convicted or expelled in 2017. The reports about prison conditions are alarming. After a prison visit on 29 January, the wife of Nguyen Van Dai, a blogger held since December 2015, said the conditions were shocking . She said he had to sleep on a concrete surface and had almost never left his cell in more than two years.

Vietnam is ranked almost at the bottom of RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index – 175th out of 180 countries.