Nguyen Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao are facing possible seven-year prison sentences on charges on “abusing democratic freedoms” following their arrest in the southern city of Can Tho on 20 April.
The three reporters were regular contributors to Bao Sach (“The Clean Newspaper”), a Facebook news page founded by Truong Chau Huu Danh, a journalist who was arrested on 17 December 2020 after exposing questionable practices by authorities controlling the motorway concession system. The Bao Sach Facebook page has been blocked ever since.
Nha, Giang and Bao recently reported that Bui Van Cong, a senior official in the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), had plagiarised his doctoral thesis. They also exposed supreme court president Ngyuen Hoa Binh’s implication in many irregularities that led to the abusive imposition of a death sentence.
Both of these officials have just been appointed to senior positions within the Politburo of the CPV, which held its five-yearly congress in January, and in the National Assembly, Vietnam’s rump parliament, whose members were elected on 31 March.
“Instead of cleaning up corruption within the Communist Party’s ranks, the regime’s repressive apparatus now regularly persecutes journalists who investigate the corruption,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The arrest of Nguyen Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang and Nguyen Trung Bao is therefore extremely shocking. Bao Sach’s journalists are the symbol of the emergence in several parts of the country of a press that no longer accepts having to cover up the shameless skulduggery by part of the ruling class.”
It was after becoming increasingly aware of all the unreported corruption that Danh, who used to work for state media, decided to found Bao Sach and publish it on social media. It quickly gained nearly 100,000 followers and was hailed for its independence in a country where the official media are forced to pump out the CPV leadership’s propaganda.
“Abusing democratic freedoms”
Nguyen Hoai Nam, another journalist who did his journalistic training working for state newspapers, was arrested on 2 April and placed in detention for three months after posting articles on Facebook exposing questionable practices within the Ho Chi Minh City government.
In February, RSF reported the arrest of Phan Bui Bao Thy, the bureau chief of the state-owned magazine Giao Duc va Thoi Dai (“Age and Education”) in the central province of Quang Tri. As often in this kind of case, the police charged him under the same penal code article 131 with “abusing democratic freedoms” although article 25 of the constitution guarantees press freedom.
The police in the southern province of Binh Thuan did not bother with a warrant when they arrested Nguyen Van Son Trung, a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), on 9 April and interrogated him for five days without allowing him access to a lawyer.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.