Vietnamese journalist Ho Van Hai is serving four years in prison to be followed by two years’ house arrest for “propagandizing against the state,” an anti-state offense outlined under Article 88 of the penal code. The ruling stemmed from 36 articles he published online that judges said vilified and slandered national leaders. Hai has not been given sufficient food or medical care, and his health has deteriorated in prison.
Police in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc district arrested Hai, popularly known by his pen name, Ho Hai, on November 2, 2016.
A statement on Ho Chi Minh City’s website said that Hai was accused of "spreading information and documents on the internet that are against the government of the Social Republic of Vietnam," news reports said. Nguyen Sy Quang, a spokesman for the Ho Chi Minh City police, told reporters that Hai had disseminated "distorted" information that caused the public to lose trust in the government, according to media reports.
Quang said police officials had been monitoring Hai’s online activities before his arrest, and that his posts may have violated Article 88 of the penal code, which outlaws the dissemination of "propaganda" against the state. The official did not provide details or the subjects of the posts in question. Convictions under the law, frequently leveled at dissidents and journalists, carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.
Hai’s personal blog and Facebook account were inaccessible on the day of his arrest, reports said. Vietnam Right Now, an independent news website, reported that Hai had recently posted articles about government corruption and an environmental disaster, caused by a steel factory, along the country’s central coast that sparked a series of protests against the government’s handling of the crisis.
On February 1, 2018, in a one-day secret trial, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Vo to four years in prison and an additional two years of house arrest for “propagandizing against the state,” an anti-state offense outlined under Article 88 of the penal code, according to news reports.
The ruling against Hai stemmed from 36 articles he published online that judges said took “advantage of political events of importance… to produce and publish a number of writings that vilify and slander the country’s leaders, and call for a boycott of the People’s Council elections at all levels,” the reports said.
Hai is being held at Ho Chi Minh City’s Chi Hoa prison as of 2019, according to The 88 Project, a rights group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners. The group said that Hai was not receiving sufficient food or medication, and that his health had deteriorated.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment about Hai’s health and status in prison in late 2019.