Vietnamese authorities recently arrested journalist Dung Le Van at a relative's house outside of Hanoi. (Photo: Lê Dũng Vova Official/YouTube)

Independent journalist Le Van Dung arrested in Vietnam after weeks in hiding

Bangkok, July 12, 2021 – Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Le Van Dung and drop any charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On June 30, police arrested Dung, a freelance journalist who runs Chan Hung Nuoc Viet, a Facebook and YouTube-based outlet that covers politics, social issues, and alleged corruption, according to news reports. He was arrested at a relative’s house outside of Hanoi, those reports said.

Authorities issued a warrant for Dung’s arrest in late May under suspicion of violating Article 117 of the country’s penal code, a provision that bars “making, storing, distributing or spreading” news or information against the state, according to reports from the time.

He had been in hiding since that warrant was issued, according to reports. If charged and convicted under Article 117, Dung could face up to 20 years in prison.

“Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Le Van Dung, drop any pending charges against him, and stop using anti-state laws to threaten journalists,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam must stop treating independent reporters like criminals, and should ensure that no journalists spend time in jail because of their work.”

At Chan Hung Nuoc Viet, Dung reported on alleged corruption, land disputes, and Vietnam’s relations with China, according to news reports. Chan Hung Nuoc Viet publishes on multiple Facebook pages, including one that has more than 12,000 followers and another that has been set to private or deleted. Dung also posted videos to the YouTube channel Lê Dũng Vova Official, which has 88 subscribers.

The state-run Vietnam News Agency alleged that his videos “distorted and defamed the administrations and leaders of localities.” The Ministry of Public Security, which the Vietnam News Agency report said is handling Dung’s case, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

Separately, Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications is drafting new regulations that will require social media users including journalists with over 10,000 followers to register and obtain permission from authorities to livestream on their platforms, according to news reports.

The draft decree builds on Decree 72, a provision that broadly curbs the use of social media to disseminate news, to more specifically limit livestreaming on platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, reports said.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed throughout to reflect the most common rendering of Le Van Dung’s name.]