News

March 9, 2020

Vietnam: Hanoi court sentences journalist to ten years in prison

Truong Duy Nhat is seen outside the courtroom of Hanoi people’s tribunal, on 9 March, 2020 (photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is shocked to learn that Truong Duy Nhat, a Vietnamese journalist who was kidnapped while seeking asylum in Thailand and brought back to Vietnam, was sentenced today in Hanoi to ten years in prison. Nhat has been punished for his independence and professionalism as a journalist, RSF said.

In a summary half-day trial, a Hanoi People's Court convicted Truong Duy Nhat under the article 356.3 of Vietnam’s criminal code of “abusing his position and authority” in connection with a supposed fraud involving state property while he was the government newspaper Dai Doan Ket’s bureau chief in the central city of Danang in 2004.

 

“The grounds given for this extremely harsh sentence are totally unacceptable,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Officially convicted of abusing his professional position, he is in fact paying dearly for his professionalism, inasmuch as he clearly had precious information. The Vietnamese authorities manifestly wanted to make an example out of him by persecuting him in this way, and we therefore demand his immediate release.”


Information Heroe


When Nhat went missing in Bangkok, the Thai capital, on 26 January 2019 while preparing to applying for refugee status, RSF voiced concern that he might have been kidnapped by Vietnamese agents. RSF’s concern proved to be justified, because he turned up in a Hanoi prison two months later.

 

After ceasing to work for the government media in 2010, Nhat worked as a freelance journalist, posting articles on his own blog, Mot Goc Nhin Khac (Another Viewpoint) and often reporting for Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the US congress.

 

According to the information obtained by RSF, the order to kidnap Nhat after he fled to Thailand came directly from the office of Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Vietnam’s prime minister. Phuc managed to join the Communist Party Politburo with the help of his political allies in Quang Nam, a province adjoining the city of Danang, where Nhat lived and had a large network of sources to assist his investigative reporting.

 

Nhat was first arrested in 2013 and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” in his blog posts. RSF included him in its list of 100 “information heroes” in 2014.


Ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists and bloggers.