Vietnamese video blogger Do Cong Duong dies in prison
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is dismayed to learn that Do Cong Duong, a jailed independent journalist who had been extremely ill for months, died in detention last week, and calls on the international community to take action to ensure the survival of other journalists held in Vietnam’s prisons.
The official cause of the 58-year-old Do Cong Duong’s death on 2 August has not been announced but he was suffering from multiple ailments for which he was being denied appropriate medical care. Jailed since January 2018, he was serving an eight-year sentence in northern Nghe An province’s Prison No. 6. The authorities refused to hand his body over to his family.
“We are deeply shocked to learn of Do Cong Duong's death as a result of his detention in truly inhumane conditions,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Alice Jill Edwards, to take action to ensure the survival of Le Huu Minh Tuan and the 39 other journalists currently imprisoned in Vietnam.”
Duong's health had deteriorated significantly in prison and he had been suffering from heart disease, pneumonia, and respiratory failure for several months. Despite his family’s repeated protests, the prison authorities never granted him the necessary care and he had to wait until he was near death to be hospitalised.
What with torture, solitary confinement and denial of medical care, the conditions in Vietnam’s prison are appalling. Degrading treatment is routine in its prisons and detention centres, especially for political prisoners. After refusing the grieving family’s request for his body, the prison authorities buried Duong inside the prison, against his family’s will.
Detailed reporting on land seizures
Duong, who was from the northern province of Bac Ninh, used social media to circulate his independently reported news and information, like many other citizen-journalists in Vietnam. A very active citizen-journalist, he often live-streamed video reports on the “Tieng Dan TV” Facebook page about corruption-related issues and land seizures by the state, which often targets the least advantaged sectors of the population.
It was while he was filming a land grab in Tu Son, a city in Bac Ninh province, that he was arrested in January 2018 and was tried twice in September and October of that year on charges of “disturbing public order” and “abusing democratic freedoms,” receiving a combined sentence of nine years in prison that was reduced to eight years on appeal in January 2019.
RSF sounds the alarm about the situation of the 40 other journalists and bloggers currently detained in Vietnam. Many of them – including Le Huu Minh Tuan, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in June 2020 – are in very poor health and risk suffering the same fate as Duong.