News

April 5, 2018 - Updated on April 10, 2018

Six Vietnamese bloggers get exceptionally long jail terms

The trial of six Brotherhood for Democracy bloggers was dispatched in a few hours. Outside, a few demonstrators tried to approach the court house (Photos: Vietnam News Agency - Jenny Vaughan / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Vietnam’s partners to press for an end to the government’s intolerable current crackdown after a Hanoi people’s court passed sentences of fifteen, nine and seven years in prison on six bloggers at the end of a summary trial today.

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Update

A seventh blogger, Nguyen Van Tuc, who is also a member of Brotherhood for Democracy, was sentenced today by a court in the northern city of Thai Binh to 13 years in prison and five years of house arrest for allegedly “carrying out attempts to overthrow the people's administration” by means of blog posts “hostile to the state.” He has not been able to see his family since his arrest on 1 September 2017.
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In the seemingly endless series of trials of citizen-journalists in Vietnam, this one was exceptional because of the unprecedented severity of the sentences.


Although bordering on farce, today’s proceedings ended with six bloggers who are members of Brotherhood for Democracy – a group that posts reports about human rights violations online – being sentenced to a total of 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest.


The trial was supposed to have lasted two days but was dispatched in few hours. Diplomats and foreign journalists were barred from the court room, which was packed with policemen. An AFP journalist was questioned by police. Many dissidents were temporarily placed under house arrest ahead of the trial, while several demonstrators were arrested outside the court house.


One of the group’s co-founders, Nguyen Van Dai, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of house arrest. The journalist Truong Minh Duc and the blogger Nguyen Trung Ton were sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years of house arrest.


Nguyen Bac Truyen, another co-founder, got 11 years in prison and three years of house arrest. Le Thu Ha, a woman blogger, was sentenced to nine years in prison and two years of probation. The sixth defendant, Pham Van Troi, got seven years in prison and one year of house arrest.


“These sentences are utterly grotesque,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The only crime committed by these Brotherhood for Democracy members was posting articles calling for respect for human rights in Vietnam. The severity of the sentences has only one explanation – it was meant to intimidate those who dare to raise issues in the public interest.”


Bastard added: “As a result of this unprecedented crackdown, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s Vietnam has lost all credibility on the international stage and its partners must draw the unavoidable conclusions.”


RSF urges European Union member countries to veto the free trade agreement with Vietnam that was supposed to be approved in 2018. After the European Parliament’s emergency resolution on Vietnam last December, it would be a disgrace if European countries were to go ahead with such an accord with a country that in recent months has become one of the world’s worse enemies of the freedom to inform.


Similarly, the United States must condition its trade talks in the coming weeks on concrete measures by the Vietnamese authorities to ensure respect for press freedom.


Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.