Bangkok, June 15, 2020 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan and drop the charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalist said today.
On June 12, Ho Chi Minh City authorities arrested Tuan and charged him under Article 117 of the country’s criminal code, a provision that criminalizes “opposing the state,” according to news reports and a statement issued by the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, a local unsanctioned independent press group, which CPJ reviewed.
Tuan, who publishes under the name “Le Tuan,” is a member of the journalists’ association and covers daily news for Vietnam Toi Bao, a news website affiliated with the association, according to that statement. He is the fourth journalist affiliated with the group to be arrested and charged under Article 117 since late 2019, according to CPJ research.
Authorities searched Tuan’s house and seized documents and materials during his arrest, according to those news reports.
According to the Vietnam News Agency, a government-run broadcaster, Tuan was detained in connection with an ongoing investigation into Pham Chi Dung, a journalist and the president of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, who has been held in detention without trial since last November.
Convictions under Article 117 carry jail terms of up to 20 years. Tuan is being held at Ho Chi Minh City’s Chi Hoa prison, according to Pham Doan Trang, a local independent journalist who wrote about the case on Facebook.
“Authorities should immediately release journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan and stop their campaign of harassment against members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam will never be viewed as a responsible international actor as long as it continues to treat independent journalists like criminals.”
In May, authorities arrested journalists Nguyen Tuong Thuy, a reporter with the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia, and Pham Chi Thanh, a freelance reporter, both members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, and charged them both under Article 117, as CPJ documented at the time. In November 2019, authorities arrested Pham Chi Dung and also charged him under Article 117.
The Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam was among 192 organizations that co-signed CPJ’s May 5 letter calling on the United Nations to take action secure the release of journalists worldwide in light of the heightened health risks posed to prison populations by COVID-19.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Tuan’s arrest and detention filed through its website.