Bangkok, March 23, 2022 – Vietnamese authorities should release journalist Le Van Dung immediately and stop imprisoning members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
The People’s Court of Hanoi convicted Dung in a two-hour trial on Wednesday, March 23, under Article 117 of the penal code, an anti-state provision that bans “creating, storing and disseminating information and materials” against the state, and sentenced him to five years in prison and five subsequent years of probation, according to multiple news reports.
The charges against Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova, stem from videos he made and posted online from March 2017 to September 2018, which the court ruled had defamed the Communist Party administration, those reports said.
Authorities have held Dung in pretrial detention since June 30, 2021, when he was arrested at a relative’s house outside of Hanoi after fleeing an arrest warrant for several weeks.
Prior to the trial, Dung’s lawyer said they intended to appeal if he was convicted, those reports said.
“Vietnamese authorities should not contest the appeal of independent reporter Le Van Dung, and should immediately and unconditionally set him free,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If Vietnam wants to be taken seriously as a responsible global actor, it must stop treating journalists as criminals.”
The court ruled that five videos uploaded by Dung “distort the lines and policies of the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, defame the people’s administration, propagate psychological warfare rhetoric and spread fabricated news,” the BBC reported.
Dung runs the independent Facebook and YouTube-based outlet Chan Hung Nuoc Viet, where he covers politics, social issues, and alleged corruption, according to news reports. One of Chan Hung Nuoc Viet’s Facebook pages has over 12,000 followers while another has been set to private or deleted.
Dung also posts videos to the YouTube channel Le Dung Vova Official, which has 191 subscribers. He is also a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, a civil society organization of more than 70 local journalists advocating for press freedom, whose members have been targeted for harassment and arrest, as CPJ has documented.
CPJ emailed Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security and called the People’s Court of Hanoi for comment, but did not receive any replies.
Vietnam is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars at the time of CPJ’s annual prison census conducted on December 1, 2021.