Vietnamese Journalist Jailed for 6 Years for Spreading ‘Anti-State’ Content

Vietnamese Journalist Jailed for 6 Years for Spreading ‘Anti-State’ Content
A 2006 file image of a Vietnamese policeman stands watch outside the Phuoc Co jail on the outskirts of the southern coastal town of Vung Tau. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly
4/15/2023
Updated:
4/15/2023
0:00

A Vietnamese court sentenced a journalist to six years in jail over “anti-state” content, in a case that sparked condemnation from international human rights groups over Vietnam’s prosecution of dissidents.

The Hanoi Court said Wednesday that Nguyen Lan Thang, a 48-year-old journalist and political activist, would also be placed under house arrest for two years, a Vietnamese news agency reported.

Thang was charged with storing and spreading anti-state content through his social media accounts. He was arrested in July 2022, and his family has not been allowed to visit him since.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Thang participated in anti-China protests, defended human rights, and blogged about various socio-political issues in the communist-ruled country.

Thang was also a contributing blogger to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Four RFA contributors, including Thang, are currently being held in Vietnam.

In a statement, RFA president Bay Fang condemned Thang’s jail sentence as “a miscarriage of justice” and “an assault on free expression in Vietnam,” and demanded his immediate release.

“The outrageous harassment he has endured and his sentencing to six years in prison demonstrates the extent to which Vietnamese authorities will go to silence independent journalists and voices,” she said.

“Nguyen Lan Thang shared his perspectives and opinions online with a sense of responsibility and duty, but never with malice or disrespect,” Bay Fang added.

US Calls For Thang’s Release Ahead of Visit

The U.S. State Department called for the release of Thang and other political detainees in a statement released ahead of State Secretary Antony Blinken’s visit to Hanoi on Friday.

“Ahead of the secretary’s visit to Hanoi, our message is clear—Vietnam is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific, and that partnership can only reach its full potential if the government of Vietnam takes concerted steps to meet its obligations and commitments under international law and improve its human rights record,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The statement followed HRW’s request that Blinken uses his visit to Vietnam to urge the regime to cease its “systematic abuse of freedom of expression” and release all political prisoners currently held in Vietnam.

“Blinken should be clear there can be no ‘business as usual’ with the Vietnamese government so long as it intensifies its repression of activists and their networks,” the organization said in a statement.
Blinken is making his first trip to Vietnam as secretary of state, hoping for progress towards upgrading relations with a key trade partner that shares U.S. worries about China’s growing might.

‘Horrendous Rights Record’

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, had also urged Vietnam’s trade partners in Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan to denounce Vietnam’s suppression of free speech and call for Thang’s release.
“Vietnam’s authorities systematically trample on human rights by punishing brave bloggers like Nguyen Lan Thang for expressing their views about the government,” Robertson stated.

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, said that Vietnam should view Thang’s peaceful activism and reporting as “part of legitimate public debate.”

“Nguyen Lan Thang’s trial shows that the Vietnamese authorities are silencing those producing content deemed ‘unfavorable’ as they seek to ensure subservience to the state,” Ming said.

“His lack of adequate access to a lawyer and family visits are a further stain on a deeply flawed and unfair trial,” she added.

Robertson said that “Vietnam’s horrendous rights record is especially shameful” given that the country is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

As of April this year, Vietnamese authorities have detained more than 160 political prisoners for expressing their rights to freedom of expression, according to the HRW report.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer covering U.S. and Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
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