A police officer is seen in Hanoi, Vietnam, on July 29, 2020. Police recently arrested journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh. (AP/Hau Dinh)

Journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh arrested in Vietnam

Bangkok, December 21, 2020 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh and drop any pending charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On December 17, police in the southern city of Can Tho arrested Danh, a former state media reporter who co-founded and contributes to Bao Sach (Clean Newspaper), a Facebook-based news outlet, for allegedly “abusing democratic rights and freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State,” a violation of Article 331 of the country’s penal code, news reports said.

The Can Tho procuracy ordered Danh to be detained for three months pending an investigation, and transferred him to a prison in his hometown in nearby Long An province, according to those reports.

If convicted under Article 331, Danh could face up to seven years in prison.

“Vietnamese journalist Truong Chau Huu Danh should be released without charge immediately, and allowed to continue his work,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam must stop its escalating harassment of independent journalists who use Facebook to publish the news.”

State media reports said the Can Tho Police Investigation Agency raided Danh’s home in Long An province and seized documents relating to his arrest.

On Bao Sach, which had more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, Danh recently covered protests over alleged illegal toll collectors on local highway systems, and posted images of government officials arrested over their suspected involvement in such a scheme, according to those news reports. CPJ was unable to review the Bao Sach Facebook page, which has been taken down or set to private.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Danh’s arrest and detention filed through its website.

Vietnam is among the worst jailers of journalists worldwide, with at least 15 behind bars when CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1.