A police officer is seen in Hanoi, Vietnam, on August 22, 2021. Authorities recently sentenced journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam to three years, six months in prison. (Reuters)

Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam sentenced to 3.5 years in prison

Bangkok, April 8, 2022 – Vietnamese authorities should release journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam immediately and unconditionally, and stop imprisoning members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, April 5, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Nam to three years, six months in prison under Article 331 of the penal code, an anti-state provision that bans “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe on the legal interests of the state, organizations, and individuals,” according to news reports.

According to those reports, the charges stemmed from Nam’s critical reporting on how authorities handled a corruption case at the Vietnam Internal Waterways Agency, which he posted on his personal Facebook page, which has about 7,800 followers. Nam, a former state media reporter, also frequently posted criticism of Communist Party officials, reports said.

“Vietnamese authorities must free journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam, who was wrongfully sentenced to prison for doing his job as an independent journalist,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam must stop treating journalists who report in the public interest as criminals, and should ensure that members of the press do not face prison for their work.”

CPJ could not immediately determine whether Nam intends to appeal the conviction. He was first detained on April 3, 2021, in Ho Chi Minh City, and was held in pretrial detention until his conviction and sentencing on Tuesday.  

CPJ emailed the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security and called the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court office for comment, but did not receive any replies.

Vietnam is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, with at least 23 members of the press behind bars for their work at the time of CPJ’s 2021 prison census.