In this December 5, 2014, file photo, men read the news on a mobile phone in central Hanoi. (AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)
In this December 5, 2014, file photo, men read the news on a mobile phone in central Hanoi. (AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Vietnamese blogger sentenced to nine years in prison

Bangkok, July 25, 2017–A Vietnamese court today sentenced blogger Tran Thi Nga to nine years in prison and five years’ probation on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state,” according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the verdict and called on Vietnamese authorities to cease jailing journalists.

After a one-day trial, the People’s Court in Ha Nam province, roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Hanoi, found Nga guilty under article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the vague offense of “propagandizing” against the state. The verdict ruled that Nga produced and posted online videos that accused “the communist state of violating human rights and called for pluralism and the elimination of Article 4 of the Constitution,” which enshrines a one-party state, news reports said.

Prosecutors presented as evidence 13 videos they said Nga produced and that they claimed were in violation of the law, including films on a toxic maritime spill, territorial disputes with China, and state corruption, reports said. Nga’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told media that the verdict was unfair and that Nga was not guilty, news reports said.

“Vietnam’s repression of brave bloggers like Tran Thi Nga must stop,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative, said. “We call on Vietnamese authorities to repeal this outrageous verdict and release all of the journalists now being held on trumped up anti-state charges.”

Nga, an activist who blogs under the pen name “Thuy Nga,” campaigned against state abuses, including trafficking, the confiscation of land, and police brutality, according to reports. When authorities arrived to arrest the blogger from her home in Vietnam’s northern Ha Nam province on January 21, she posted video clips online that showed the dozens of police officers who had surrounded her house, reports said.

Nga was held for over six months in pre-trial detention. Before her arrest, she had complained about years of official harassment. In 2014, assailants attacked her with metal bars while she rode a bicycle with her children, breaking her left arm and right leg, according to news reports.

Nga’s conviction comes nearly a month after a court sentenced Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as “Me Nam” or “Mother Mushroom,” to 10 years in prison for “propagandizing” against the state. She was held incommunicado for more than eight months before her one-day trial, according to news reports and CPJ research.

Vietnam held at least eight journalists behind bars in late 2016, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed worldwide.