Journalist Huynh Thuc Vy told her daughter that guards had beaten and choked her at the Gia Trung Prison, where she is being detained in central Gia Lai province on October 9, 2022. (Photo Credit: Huynh Ngoc Tuan)

Vietnamese journalist Huynh Thuc Vy beaten, choked by prison guards

Bangkok, October 14, 2022 – Vietnamese authorities must investigate, identify, and bring to full justice the prison guards responsible for physically abusing imprisoned journalist Huynh Thuc Vy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On October 9, Vy told her young daughter that guards had beaten and choked her at the Gia Trung Prison, where she is being detained in central Gia Lai province, according to a post on her personal Facebook page maintained by her family, and her father Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who communicated with CPJ via a translator by messaging app.

Tuan told CPJ that the circumstances surrounding Vy’s assault were unclear but said that guards had earlier warned that her monthly visitation rights would be suspended if she spoke about her prison conditions with family and if she continued to advocate for other women prisoners who had been denied family phone calls and visits.

Tuan said Vy submitted an appeal to Gia Trung Prison authorities and the national Department of Prison Management about the abuse but has not yet received any reply.

“Vietnam must identify and hold to account those responsible for assaulting jailed journalist Huynh Thuc Vy,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “It is not the first time authorities have assaulted Vy, and her security is clearly at risk in prison. She and all the journalists Vietnam wrongly holds behind bars should be released immediately.”

Vy, an independent blogger who had covered political, social, environmental, and human rights issues since 2008, is serving a two year and nine month prison sentence handed down in November 2018 for defacing a national flag, an anti-state criminal offense under Article 276 of Vietnam’s penal code, according to news reports and CPJ research.

The court ruled that Vy, a pregnant mother of a two-year-old, would be held under house arrest until her youngest child reached three years of age, according to those sources. Vy faced harassment while under house arrest in 2020, including a July 19 attack when security forces violently snatched a scarf she was wearing after she left her home to visit a church with her infant daughter, according to a statement by the Forum-Asia and 18 other civil society organizations. 

According to her father, Vy was taken into custody on December 1, 2021, after a Dak Lak province court revoked her house arrest for unclear reasons. Tuan added that Vy was transferred to Gia Trung Prison, situated over 200 kilometers from her home, in February 2022.

CPJ’s email to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prisons, did not receive a reply. Vietnam ranked as the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 members of the press held behind bars for their work, according to CPJ’s December 1, 2021, prison census.