Award-winning journalist released

New York, February 4, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the recent release from prison of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, an award-winning writer and journalist.

Thuy, 47, had an unexpected trial before the Hanoi’s People’s Court on Thursday. She was sentenced to nine months and 10 days on charges of “causing public disorder” under Article 245 of Vietnam’s penal code, according to news reports. Having already served that amount of time, she was immediately released.

The Vietnamese government maintains strict regulation of the country’s media—in print, broadcast, and online. Thuy had posted a number of Internet essays calling for greater democracy, according to freedom of expression group English PEN.

“We welcome the release of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, but we call upon the Vietnamese authorities to stop jailing journalists on dubious charges,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Journalists must be free to give voice to varying political opinions as part of their work.”

Thuy was originally arrested on April 21 of last year on the more serious charge of violating Article 88 of the penal code, which broadly prohibits the dissemination of information that authorities deem harmful to the state and carries a possible 12-year prison term. It was unclear why the authorities tried her under different charges. 

The terms of Thuy’s release were not immediately available. Thuy suffers from diabetes and tuberculosis and developed rheumatism while in Hanoi’s Thanh Liet detention center, according to news reports. In February, she was awarded a Hellman-Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch; the awards are given annually to dissident writers who display of courage in the face of political persecution.