Bangkok, January 5, 2022 – Vietnamese authorities should release journalist Le Trong Hung immediately and unconditionally, and stop imprisoning independent reporters for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On December 31, 2021, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Hung, a reporter with the independent social-media based outlet Chen Hung Nuoc Viet (CHTV), to five years in prison and five years of probation after convicting him under Article 117 of the penal code, a provision that bars “making, storing, distributing, or spreading” news or information against the state, news reports said.
The court ruled that Hung’s reporting on CHTV had infringed on national security, defamed the government, caused instability, and affected “public confidence in the political institution and state,” reports said.
Hung was first arrested at his home in Hanoi on March 27, 2021, and was held in pretrial detention until his conviction, according to those reports, which noted that he is also a political activist, and was arrested after nominating himself as a National Assembly candidate on his Facebook page.
During his trial, Hung denied committing any criminal acts, those reports said. CPJ could not immediately determine whether Hung intends to appeal the conviction.
“Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Le Trong Hung and stop using anti-state laws to imprison journalists,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “This ridiculously harsh sentencing underscores Vietnam’s reputation as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.”
CHTV covers politics, social issues, and alleged corruption on multiple Facebook pages, including one that has more than 12,000 followers and another that has been set to private or deleted. CPJ was unable to find the outlet’s YouTube page.
Hung, who reports under the pseudonym “Hung Gan,” co-founded CHTV and has worked there for about four years, according to a report citing his wife, Do Le Na. Authorities also arrested CHTV cofounder Dung Le Van on June 30, 2021; he is being held in detention awaiting trial on Article 117 charges, according to CPJ research.
CPJ called the Hanoi People’s Court for comment, but received an automated request to call again later. CPJ sent a request for comment to the Ministry of Public Security through its website, but did not immediately receive any response.
Vietnam ranked as the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists in 2021, with at least 23 members of the press held behind bars for their work, according to CPJ’s annual prison census published last month.
Hung was not included on the census because CPJ was not aware of his case at the time.