Vietnamese journalist Do Cong Duong was detained in 2018 and sentenced to eight years in prison on separate anti-state charges of “disturbing public order” and “abusing democratic freedoms.” An appeals court reduced his sentence on the latter conviction from five to four years on January 23, 2019. Duong died in prison on August 2, 2022.
Duong was detained on January 24, 2018, while filming and taking photographs of state authorities forcibly evicting residents at the Tu Son commune in Bac Ninh province, according to a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.
Duong regularly covers land rights and corruption, including on his “Tieng Dan TV” program, where he live-streamed video discussions over Facebook, according to The 88 Project, an advocacy group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners. Land seizures are a politically sensitive issue in the communist country.
The 88 Project said Duong had been warned by Bac Ninh police in writing in September 2017 that his articles and live videos on Facebook included content that “distorts the truth” and “contradicts the directions and policies of the Party and the law of the state.”
On September 17, 2018, a court in the northern province of Bac Ninh sentenced Duong to four years in prison for disturbing public order, a criminal offense under article 318 of Vietnam’s penal code, according to the Radio Free Asia report.
Duong’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, said that the journalist pleaded innocent and that his family planned to appeal the verdict, according to Radio Free Asia.
Duong faced a separate charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” to infringe on the interests of the state, a criminal offense that carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence under article 331 of the revised 2015 penal code, according to The 88 Project. On October 12, 2018, he was convicted of the charge and given another five years in prison, according to reports.
On November 21, 2018, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh province rejected his appeal on the disturbing public order charges, according to Defend the Defenders, an independent rights group.
Duong’s defense lawyer said he was in poor health when they met in April 2018, according to Radio Free Asia. On January 23, 2019, Duong’s sentence under article 331 was reduced from five to four years, according to The 88 Project.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Duong’s health and status in prison in late 2021.
Duong died on August 2, 2022, after becoming ill while serving his sentence in the Nghe An province Detention Center No. 6, Radio Free Asia reported. According to news reports, Duong contracted multiple diseases while in prison, and authorities declined timely access to medical treatment, despite repeated requests from family. The journalist’s cause of death has not been released.