A police officer is seen in Hanoi, Vietnam, on July 29, 2020. Police recently arrested three journalists affiliated with the outlet Bao Sach ("Clean Newspaper"). (AP/Hau Dinh)

Vietnamese police arrest 3 more journalists in probe of ‘Clean Newspaper’

Bangkok, April 21, 2021 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalists Nguyen Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang, and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, and drop any pending charges against them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, police in the southern city of Can Tho arrested the three journalists as part of an ongoing investigation into Truong Chau Huu Danh, founder of the independent Bao Sach (“Clean Newspaper”) Facebook-based news outlet, according to news reports. Authorities also seized documents relating to their work during the arrests, those reports said.

Nha, Giang, and Bao worked as reporters for Bao Sach before its Facebook page was deactivated following Danh’s arrest in December 2020, according to those reports and CPJ documentation from the time.

Danh is accused of violating Article 331 of the penal code, which bans “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” and carries potential seven-year jail terms, according to CPJ’s coverage from the time, which called for his immediate release.

CPJ could not immediately determine whether Nha, Giang, and Bao are also accused under Article 331 of the penal code.

“Reporters Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang, and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao should all be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnamese authorities must stop jailing journalists for their work, and should ensure that members of the press are able to work for independent outlets without fear of arrest and legal harassment.”

Bao Sach had more than 100,000 followers on Facebook at the time of Danh’s arrest last year; it covered topics including 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, as CPJ documented at the time.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment on the reporters’ arrests and the status of Danh’s case, 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, 2020.