A Ha Tinh court added Nguyen Van Hoa’s name to the long list of persecuted bloggers at the end a trial lasting just two and a half hours, sentencing him to seven years in prison followed by three years of house arrest on a charge of “disseminating propaganda against the state” under article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code.
“We firmly condemn this totally disproportionate sentence,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “It was all the more severe because Hoa showed his good faith by accepting all the police recommendations. He did not take a lawyer and signed a confession that was broadcast on state TV in April.
“Not even his family was warned that this trial was going to take place. Such drastic action confirms the intransigence of Vietnam’s refusal to tolerate any reporting freedom. Vietnam’s commercial partners should draw the appropriate conclusions.”
Using its distinctive wording, the regional state-controlled online newspaper Bao Ha Tinh reported that Hoa was accused of “using Facebook to disseminate reactionary propaganda against the party and state policy by means of articles, videos and photos with negative content.”
The main reason for Hoa’s arrest in early 2017 was his coverage of the reactions to a toxic spill from a Taiwanese steel plant in Ha Tinh province that poisoned millions of fish and reduced thousands of fishermen to penury. Hoa covered the ensuing protests, sometimes using a camera mounted on a drone
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger better known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom) was given a ten-year jail sentence for similar reasons last June.
Just four days before Quynh’s appeal is heard on 30 November, her lawyer, Vo An Don, was struck from the bar association with the apparent aim of preventing him from discussing the case in public. Quynh’s mother said she was not pinning much hope on the hearing.
As part of the #StopTheCrackdownVN campaign by RSF and other NGOs in response to these media freedom violations, a delegation met with European Parliament members in Brussels on 22 and 23 November to discuss the fate of Vietnam’s bloggers and the possibility of an emergency European Parliament resolution on Vietnam (see attached document).
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.