Nguyen Tuong Thuy

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Nguyen Tuong Thuy, a reporter with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA), was arrested by police in Hanoi on May 23, 2020. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence on an anti-state conviction. 

Thuy was charged the same day as his arrest with “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of the country’s criminal code. VietnamNet reported that police seized documents and other undisclosed evidence during Thuy’s arrest. 

Thuy is a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a local unsanctioned independent press group where he was acting as vice president, according to RFA and a representative from the journalists’ association, who asked to remain anonymous, citing security concerns.

RFA said in a statement that Thuy’s arrest was “intended to silence free speech” and “reinforces the need for independent journalism in Vietnam.” Thuy contributed commentary including on issues of civil rights and civil liberties to RFA for six years, the statement said. 

A September 8, 2021, RFA report detailing his journalistic work said Thuy had reported on death row prisoner Ho Duy Hai and on land disputes against private developers or the government. In 2014, Thuy testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on media freedom problems in Vietnam. 

On November 10, 2020, state prosecutors indicted Thuy at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy, thereby confirming the charges filed by police and advancing his case to the court system, according to an RFA report

On January 5, 2021, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court convicted Thuy and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, to be followed by three years of house arrest, under Article 117, according to news reports

Thuy was transferred from Ho Chi Minh City Police detention center to Bo La prison in Binh Duong province on January 25, RFA reported.

On March 29, Thuy was transferred again to An Phouc Detention Camp in the same province, RFA reported. Pham Thi Lan, Thuy’s wife, confirmed on her Facebook page on April 15 that the transfer took place.

In September 2021, prison authorities rejected petition letters calling for an investigation into the legal proceedings against Thuy, RFA reported, quoting his wife. The petition was rejected on the grounds that he did not have the rights of a citizen as a convicted prisoner, the report said. 

In March 2022, Thuy wrote a protest letter after the High People’s Procuracy in Ho Chi Minh City did not respond to his request for consideration of a further appeal in his case, U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America reported.

The letter said he was convicted based on forged evidence and that documents seized from his house by authorities were unrelated to his case. Thuy also wrote that his sentence was “unjustly wrong” and that he “definitely will not plead guilty to reduce the sentence.”

Thuy’s wife, Lan, who visited Thuy in prison on May 14, 2022, said that Thuy suffered from back pain, high blood pressure, scabies, and inflammatory bowel disease, RFA reported. She said prison authorities downplayed his health condition and denied requests to send Thuy to an outside medical center.

In mid-September 2022, Lan told RFA by phone that Thuy suffered from high blood pressure, kidney stones, and arthritis, according to notes of the conversation that RFA emailed CPJ.

She said Thuy faced persistent pressure from prison authorities to confess to the charges under which he was convicted and sentenced but he maintained his innocence, the RFA notes said. She said his family could not receive his state pension unless he signed a confession acknowledging his guilt. 

In 2023, Thuy suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and ulcerative colitis, according to an IJAVN representative who communicated with CPJ by email and requested anonymity for security reasons. Prison authorities refused his family’s request to receive outside medical treatment, the representative said.

The IJAVN source said Thuy was regularly harassed by his cellmate, but his request for a cell transfer was denied because he had not been physically assaulted. 

Lan said in a March 2023 interview with The 88 Project that Thuy was not given the required paperwork in time to appeal his conviction and sentencing. She said a court to which Thuy had sent letters replied that it had no authority to investigate allegations he had been assaulted and beaten during questioning by authorities. Lan also said that none of the letters Thuy sent home via the postal system in 2023 had arrived.   

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s October 2023 emailed requests for comment about Thuy’s status and health in prison.