Bangkok, January 13, 2016 - The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison of Vietnamese journalist Dang Xuan Dieu and calls on Vietnamese authorities to free unconditionally all journalists held behind bars. Dieu was released late last night after more than five years in prison and flew immediately to France, according to news reports. He arrived in Paris early today, the news reports said.
Dieu, a journalist at the Catholic news agency Vietnam Redemptorist News, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in January 2013 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, a criminal offense under article 79 of the Penal Code. Dang Xuan Ha, Dieu's brother, told the BBC's Vietnamese-language service that a police authority said Dieu's early release was an act of "clemency," without providing further details. According to Amnesty International, he was frequently beaten and mistreated by prison guards and other inmates in detention.
"Vietnam's release of Dang Xuan Dieu is good news, but he should never have been jailed in the first place, and should not have had to leave his country," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "We call on authorities to stop using vague unjust laws to punish the press, and to release all journalists still jailed."
Dieu's release coincided with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's arrival in Vietnam for meetings with leaders of the country's ruling Communist Party. CPJ has criticized Vietnam's piecemeal release of jailed journalists without making good on commitments to uphold human rights in a comprehensive partnership agreement it struck with the United States in 2013.
Vietnam previously released two jailed journalists on the condition that they leave the country for exile, CPJ research shows. Blogger Ta Phong Tan was released in 2015 after serving three years of a 10-year prison sentence on condition that she leave the country. She now resides in the United States. Blogger Nguyen Van Hai, a CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner, also immediately flew to the United States in October 2014, having served two years of a 12-year prison sentence on charges of propagandizing against the state.