IJAVN president Pham Chi Dung was given a record 15-year jail sentence at the end of the sham trial, which was completed in less than four hours, while the association’s vice president, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and its editor, Le Huu Minh Tuan, were each sentenced to 11 years in prison.
All three were convicted of anti-state propaganda under article 117 of the penal code, a catch-all charge that is often used to silence those who dare to stray from the current Communist Party leadership’s propaganda line, although this article contradicts article 25 of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's constitution, which proclaims press freedom.
Appalling prison conditions
“The size of the sentences passed on these three IJAVN journalists is extremely shocking,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Imposed ahead of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s 13th national congress at the end of the month, these sentences are clearly designed to extinguish any form of civil society debate – a debate that these members of the independent journalists association had been echoing. They have no place being in prison.”
The three journalists have been subjected to appalling conditions. They were held incommunicado for months and were not granted the right to see their lawyer until last November.
Arrested at his Ho Chi Minh City home in November 2019, Dung is a former Communist Party member who was named an RSF “information hero” in 2014. Aged 68, Thuy was arrested at his Hanoi home on 23 May 2020, two days after the arrest of another IJAVN member, Pham Chi Thanh.
Tuan is a representative of the younger generation of independent journalists. He was arrested in June 2020 after covering Vietnamese politics with a particular focus on civil society efforts to democratize the country.
Long been near the bottom of RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Index.