Bangkok, February 18, 2021 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy and stop jailing reporters for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On February 10, police in Vietnam’s central Quang Tri province arrested Thy, bureau chief of the state-run Giao Duc Va Thoi Dai (Age and Education) news magazine, and charged him with violating Article 331 of the country’s penal code, a provision which criminalizes “abusing democratic freedoms,” according to news reports.
The charges accuse Thy and his associate, Le Anh Dung, of maintaining several pseudonymous Facebook pages on which they allegedly posted original commentary, photos, and videos accusing provincial leaders of corruption, news reports said. Authorities ordered Thy to be detained for two months, pending an investigation, according to those reports.
“Journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy should be released immediately and all pending charges against him should be dropped,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam must stop treating journalists as criminals, and should allow members of the press to cover topics of public interest without fear that they will face years in prison.”
Police officers confiscated data related to Thy’s online activities at the time of his arrest in Da Nang city, reports said.
One of the Facebook pages those news reports cite as being run by Thy and Dung, “Quang Tri 357,” has about 2,300 followers and features posts accusing Quang Tri provincial leaders of misusing funds meant for local infrastructure and property projects.
If convicted of violating Article 331 of Vietnam’s criminal code, Thy could face up to seven years in prison.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
CPJ’s latest prison census found that Vietnam held at least 15 journalists behind bars for their work as of December 1, making the nation the second-worst jailer in Asia, behind only China.