News

September 21, 2018

Vietnamese citizen-journalist facing second, longer jail term

Using an improvised studio, citizen-journalist Do Cong Duong provided the Vietnamese public with coverage of eviction and corruption cases (left), subjects that the regime’s propaganda outlets carefully avoid (photos: Facebook - Phu Dong).
After being sentenced this week to four years in prison on a charge of “disturbing public order” for filming an eviction, Vietnamese citizen-journalist and video blogger Do Cong Duong could soon face an even longer sentence on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards this as a flagrant violation of the freedom to inform, one that Vietnam’s commercial partners must not implicitly endorse. Instead they should use their trade ties to put pressure on the regime’s leadership, RSF says.

 

Arrested on 24 January while trying to film people being evicted from their homes in Tu Son, in the northern province of Bac Ninh, Do Cong Duong was given the four-year jail term – the biggest possible sentence on a public order charge – at the end of a sham trial before a Bac Ninh provincial court on 17 September.

 

But this won’t be the end of Duong’s ordeal. He is due to be tried again next month on the grotesque additional charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” under article 331 of Vietnam’s criminal code, which carries a possible seven-year sentence.

 

“The Vietnamese Communist Party leadership must end its unrelenting persecution of citizen-journalists,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “By covering the rights violations to which much of the population is subjected, independent bloggers and media enable civil society to make its voice heard by an increasingly sclerotic regime.

 

“If they don’t want to disgrace themselves, Vietnam’s commercial partners must put pressure on the government to loosen its grip on the freedom to inform. They have the power and the duty to do this.”

 

In the wake of the European Parliament’s adoption of an RSF-backed emergency resolution last December, 32 MEPs sent a joint letter at the start of this week to EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström urging them to condition any ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement on a series of measures to improve respect for human rights, including the freedom to inform, in accordance with article 3 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 

Vietnam has long been near the bottom of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index and is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Index.