Bangkok, November 22, 2019 — Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Pham Chi Dung and drop any pending charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Security officers arrested Dung yesterday at his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City and charged him under Article 117 of Vietnam’s criminal code, an anti-state provision that bars criticism of the government, according to a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.
Police said Dung wrote articles critical of the state and cooperated with foreign media to disseminate “distorted information,” and said he would be held for four months while authorities investigate, according to Radio Free Asia.
“Authorities must immediately release Pham Chi Dung and drop all pending anti-state charges against him,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If Vietnam wants to be viewed as a responsible and credible global actor, this type of harassment of the press must stop.”
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Public Security, the state agency responsible for the police, for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.
He is also the founding chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, a civil society organization comprised of more than 70 local journalists that advocates for press freedom and reporters’ rights, according to the association’s website, which operates with restricted access.
Dung’s recent Voice of America reporting was sharply critical of a proposed European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which he suggested Brussels should not ratify due to Vietnam’s poor human rights record. His arrest came soon after he issued a November 10 petition, which CPJ reviewed, calling on EU leaders to postpone ratifying the trade agreement until Vietnam improves its press freedom and human rights situation.
CPJ’s latest prison census showed that Vietnam held 11 journalists behind bars, the highest number in Asia apart from China. Vietnam was also included on CPJ’s latest 10 Most Censored counties report, ranking as the sixth most-censored nation worldwide.