Bangkok, August 20, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the recent abuse of imprisoned Vietnamese videographer Nguyen Van Hoa, and called on Vietnamese authorities to stop beating and harassing jailed journalists.
Authorities beat Hoa, a reporter with Radio Free Asia, into making a forced confession used in court to convict environmental activist Le Dinh Luong, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on August 16 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, according to news reports and Rohit Mahajan, RFA’s director of public affairs, who communicated with CPJ over email.
Ha Huy Son, Luong’s defense lawyer, said that Hoa was beaten in prison and forced to testify against his client and that Hoa retracted his earlier testimony in court, according to news reports. Son said Luong’s conviction was based on the forced testimonies provided by Hoa and another witness who likewise recanted on the witness stand on August 16 because he was beaten into making false testimony, reports said.
“Vietnamese authorities must stop immediately their harassment and abuse of reporter Nguyen Van Hoa,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “Instead of beating jailed journalists into making false confessions, Vietnamese authorities should free all journalists behind bars, reform the laws that put them there, and hold to account those who abused their power to commit this assault.”
Mahajan confirmed to CPJ that Hoa recanted his confession while in court during the closed one-day trial, testifying that prison authorities beat him into making the statement. Mahajan said RFA is “very concerned” about Hoa’s treatment in prison now that he has recanted his earlier statement.
Hoa is serving a seven-year sentence handed down in a one-day trial last November on charges under article 88 of the penal code, an anti-state provision that carries a maximum 20-year prison term for “propagandizing” against the state, according to news reports and CPJ research.
The conviction was based on Hoa’s reporting on a mid-2016 industrial spill that devastated wide areas of Vietnam’s central coast. Luong’s 20-year sentence was related to his activism on the same disaster, including posts he made on Facebook calling for the government to compensate the spill’s victims, reports said.