A security officer is seen in Hanoi, Vietnam, on January 26, 2021. Police recently detained journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam for alleged anti-state crimes. (AP/Minh Hoang)

Vietnam detains journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam for alleged anti-state crimes

Bangkok, April 14, 2021 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam, drop any pending charges against him, and stop jailing journalists on trumped-up anti-state allegations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On April 3, authorities in Ho Chi Minh City detained Nam, an independent journalist who publishes commentary and reporting on Facebook, according to news reports.

On April 10, authorities announced that he was being investigated under Article 331 of the penal code, an anti-state provision that penalizes “abusing democratic freedoms,” and carries maximum seven-year prison terms for convictions, those reports said.  

On his personal Facebook page, which has about 7,800 followers, Nam recently wrote about alleged government corruption, and frequently posted criticism of Communist Party officials, according to the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia and CPJ’s review of his page. CPJ could not immediately determine which specific posts authorities cited in their allegations against Nam.

“Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam and drop any pending charges against him,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If Vietnam’s government wants to be viewed internationally as a responsible actor, it must stop treating journalism as a crime, and must stop harassing members of the press over their work.”

Nam, who previously reported for state media outlets including Phap Luat (Law Journal), Thanh Nien (Youth Newspaper), and Voice of Vietnam Radio, will be held in pretrial detention at Ho Chi Minh City’s Chi Hoa Detention Center while authorities investigate his case, those news reports said.

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Public Security for comment, but did not receive any reply.

CPJ’s latest prison census found that Vietnam imprisoned at least 15 journalists for their work as of December 1, 2020, making the nation the second-worst jailer in Asia, trailing only China.