Two Vietnamese state media journalists convicted for exposing corruption
In the past week, Vietnamese courts have convicted two state media journalists for exposing corruption, sentencing one to a long jail term and the other to a year of “reeducation.” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns these criminal convictions designed to silence journalists who were serving the public interest.
Nguyen Hoai Nam was sentenced to three and a half years in prison under article 331 of the penal code on 5 April, three days after completing 12 months in pre-trial detention in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chi Hoa prison. This article penalises abusing “democratic freedoms such as the freedom of speech [and] freedom of the press” so as to “violate the interests of the state, rights, legal interests of organisations and individuals.”
Nam was arrested on 2 April 2021 as a result of his role in a case dating back to 2018 when – while working for the state-owned Bao Phap Luat TPHCM (“Ho Chi Minh City Legal Bulletin”) – he provided the public security ministry’s investigation department with evidence of corruption within the Vietnam Internal Waterways Agency.
In subsequent Facebook posts, Nam reported that, although he had identified 15 people who had been taking bribes, the police scapegoated just three employees of the Vietnam Internal Waterways Agency and refrained from investigating more senior officials involved in the corruption.
The head of the investigation, Tran Van Ve, responded to Nam’s posts by personally filing a complaint against him in December 2020. Four months later, Nam was arrested and immediately placed in pre-trial detention.
“We call for Nguyen Hoai Nam’s immediate release and for his conviction to be quashed because his only crime was to have tried to serve the public interest by alerting his country’s government to corruption,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific bureau. “His fate highlights the straitjacket confining Vietnam’s state media journalists, who are forced to toe the official line imposed by the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda department even when they try to draw attention to cases of corruption.”
Two days after Nam’s trial, a court in the central province of Quang Tri sentenced Phan Bui Bao Thy, the regional bureau chief of the state-owned magazine Giao Duc va Thoi Dai (“Age and Education”) on 7 April to 12 months of “non-custodial reeducation” under the same article of the penal code – article 331.
As RSF reported at the time, Thy was arrested on 5 February 2021 for several Facebook posts revealing corruption cases involving the deputy minister of culture, tourism and sports, Nguyen Van Hung, who is from Quang Tri, and the province’s president, Vo Van Hung.*
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.