Journalists Nguyen Tuong Thuy (left), Pham Chi Dung (right), and Le Huu Minh Tuan (back) are seen at a courthouse in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, on January 5, 2021. The three were each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP)
Journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan (back left) at a courthouse in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, on January 5, 2021. Tuan and journalists Nguyen Tuong Thuy (left) and Pham Chi Dung (right) were each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Huan is now critically ill. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

CPJ calls for immediate release of ailing Vietnamese journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan

Bangkok, January 5, 2023—Vietnamese authorities should immediately release journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan from jail on humanitarian grounds, amid reports that his health has deteriorated, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

Tuan, who is serving an 11-year sentence for “opposing the state” under Article 117 of the criminal code, told his family during a December 26 prison visit that he was unwell, unable to eat solid food, and feared for his life, according to news reports. Tuan’s family said he had lost significant weight, moved slowly, and walked with a limp during the prison visit, those sources said.

Tuan suffers from bloody stools, pain throughout his abdomen, and other symptoms “similar to colon cancer,” Tuan’s family were reported as saying to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). Prison authorities took Tuan to a local hospital on November 2, 2023, but the medical examination was cursory, his family said.

Prison authorities acknowledged in late 2022 that Tuan suffered from gastrointestinal problems and he was diagnosed with colitis and hepatitis by a prison medical officer, the RFA report said.

“Vietnamese journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan should be freed immediately and unconditionally amid reports that his health has taken a critical turn for the worse,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The longer Tuan ails in prison, the greater the shame on Vietnam for its cruel treatment of imprisoned journalists.”

Tuan is a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a local unsanctioned independent press group, whose president Pham Chi Dung is also serving a jail sentence for anti-state propaganda.

Tuan was first detained on June 12, 2020, in Ho Chi Minh City, and is currently in Xuyen Moc prison in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, after previously being held at two other detention facilities.

Vietnam was one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, with at least 21 behind bars, when CPJ conducted its latest annual prison census on December 1, 2022. CPJ’s 2023 census will be released later this month.