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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on October 9, 2018. Vietnam sentenced a citizen journalist to prison on an anti-state charge on October 12. (Franck Robichon/Pool via Reuters)

Vietnam sentences citizen journalist on second anti-state charge

October 15, 2018 10:58 AM ET

Bangkok, October 15, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the second prison sentence handed to Vietnamese journalist Do Cong Duong and strongly reiterated its call for his immediate and unconditional release.

On October 12, in a half-day trial, a Vietnamese court in the northern province of Bac Ninh sentenced Duong to five years in prison on anti-state charges of "abusing democratic freedoms," a criminal offense under article 331 of the revised 2015 penal code, according to news reports.

News reports said Duong was convicted for critical reports he posted on Facebook about local corruption and land disputes. His defense lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told Radio Free Asia that the methods authorities used to collect evidence against Duong were not compliant with local laws and that Duong was innocent of the charges.

"Duong was merely doing his job as a journalist and should be immediately and unconditionally released," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia representative. "Vietnam's use of arbitrary and vague anti-state laws to jail journalists must stop."

It was not immediately clear from the news reports if Duong intended to appeal the conviction. Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security could not be reached by telephone today for comment on Duong's conviction.

Duong was sentenced separately in September to four years in prison on charges of "disturbing public order" while filming and taking photographs of state authorities forcibly evicting residents of Nach Ninh province's Tu Son commune. "Disturbing public order" is a criminal offense under the penal code's article 318.

Duong regularly covers land rights and corruption, including on his "Tieng Dan TV" program, where he live-streamed video discussions over Facebook, according to the 88 Project, an independent advocacy group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners.

The group said Duong was warned by Bac Ninh police in writing in September 2017 that his articles and live videos on Facebook included content that "distorts the truth" and "contradicts the directions and policies of the Party and the law of the state."

Defense attorney Son said Duong was in poor health when he visited him in prison in April and that authorities, including the local police, had harassed his family over Duong's land rights and anti-corruption reporting and activism, according to Radio Free Asia and 88 Project research.

At least 10 journalists were held behind bars in Vietnam when CPJ conducted its annual census of jailed journalists worldwide in December 2017. All 10 were jailed on anti-state charges related to their work, CPJ research shows.

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