Journalist’s appeal to be heard on May 5

May 3, 2004, New York—On Wednesday, May 5, the Supreme People’s Court in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, will hear the appeal of journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence on charges of espionage. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

On September 25, 2002, Binh was arrested from his home in Hanoi. He was held incommunicado until December 31, 2003, when the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced him to seven years in prison, followed by three years of house arrest upon his release.

According to official reports, Binh was convicted because he had “written and exchanged, with various opportunist elements in the country, information and materials that distorted the party and state policies.” Shortly before his arrest, Binh wrote and distributed online an article titled “Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement,” which criticized land and sea border agreements between the two countries.

Binh worked for almost 10 years at Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), an official publication of Vietnam’s Communist Party. In January 2001, he left his position there after applying to form an independent opposition group called the Liberal Democratic Party. Since then, Binh has written several articles calling for political reform and criticizing current government policy.

According to CPJ sources, Binh is being held in a jail cell together with two criminal convicts. Prison authorities have not allowed Binh to receive any food supplies or reading materials from his family.

On April 29, 2004, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told journalists that foreign reporters will not be allowed to attend Binh’s appeal trial.

“The charges against Nguyen Vu Binh are completely unfounded,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “He should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Vietnam is currently holding nine journalists in prison, five of whom were arrested after writing or distributing information online. In August 2003, the Supreme People’s Court reduced the sentence of writer Pham Hong Son from 13 years to five years on appeal.

For more information about Nguyen Vu Binh’s case, please see CPJ’s January 5 protest letter.