Vietnamese journalist Le Manh Ha is serving an eight-year prison sentence on a conviction of propagandizing against the state, a charge the ruling Communist Party frequently uses to stifle independent news reporting.
Plainclothes police officers arrested Ha in the city of Tuyen Quang on January 12, 2022. After his early morning arrest, police authorities took Ha to his house and seized 20 books, two laptop computers, and a telephone, according to a U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America report that quoted his wife, Ma Thi Tho.
Days before his arrest, Ha posted commentary on Facebook about what he referred to as the “unequal fight” in eliminating official corruption, the VOA report said.
On October 25, 2022, after a two-day trial, the People’s Court of Tuyen Quang province convicted Ha under Article 117 of the penal code, a provision that bars “making, storing, distributing or spreading” news or information against the state, according to news reports and CPJ reporting. The court sentenced him to eight years in prison and five subsequent years of house arrest, those reports said.
The ruling said Ha produced 21 video clips and 13 articles that the court deemed as “propaganda against the socialist state of Vietnam” and posted them to his Voice of the People Le Ha TV (TDTV) YouTube-based news channel, and to his personal Facebook page, according to the same reports.
Ha pleaded innocent and indicated he would appeal, according to a U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia report that quoted his defense lawyers.
Ha’s TDTV channel often discusses legal matters related to state land grabs, a politically sensitive issue in the Communist Party-ruled nation, the VOA report said. His news channel also frequently airs interviews with state land grab victims.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment on Ha’s conviction and detention in late 2022.