Two Vietnamese bloggers given prison sentences

Bangkok, August 17, 2012–Harsh prison sentences handed down recently to two independent Vietnamese bloggers represent the latest official abuses in a widening crackdown on Internet freedoms in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Dinh Dang Dinh, a former schoolteacher and police officer, and Le Thanh Tung, a former military officer, were sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively, on anti-state charges for their blog postings that were perceived as critical of the Communist Party-dominated government and its policies, according to international news reports.

Dinh was sentenced on August 8 by a Dak Nong province court for violating the criminal code’s Article 88, a vague provision banning propagandizing against the state that is often used to stifle and punish activists, dissidents, and independent bloggers, according to CPJ research. He was charged for articles written and posted between 2007 and 2011, according to news reports.

Dinh had written and posted critical articles on government corruption and a controversial bauxite mining project, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). First detained in October 2011, the blogger was held in detention until his one-day trial. RFA reported that Dinh’s family had come under pressure from the authorities not to publicize his case and had not been informed when his trial would be held.  

Tung was convicted by a Hanoi court on August 11 for “propaganda against the state” in a series of blog postings he published between August 2009 and October 2011, according to news reports. The court ruled in a one-hour trial that his articles “distorted the policies of the state and the party” and violated Article 88, the reports said.

Several of his articles advocated for democracy and more political liberalism in Vietnam’s authoritarian one-party political system. Tung was also given a subsequent sentence of four years’ house arrest, according to news reports. He was first detained in December 2011.

“These arbitrary and harsh sentences underscore the excessive lengths Vietnamese authorities take to suppress freedom of expression on the Internet,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Vietnam’s government to reverse these unjust rulings and to release all online journalists now being held behind bars.” 

Three other imprisoned bloggers–Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Phann Thanh Hai–await trial on anti-state charges in Vietnam, according to news reports. Authorities had earlier announced that the bloggers would stand trial on August 7, but the proceedings were delayed for unknown reasons, the reports said.

CPJ’s prison census, conducted on December 1, 2011 showed that Vietnam held nine journalists and bloggers behind bars. Neither Dinh nor Tung was included on that census list.

  • For more data and analysis on Vietnam, visit CPJ’s Vietnam page here.