Pham Chi Dung

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Police arrested Pham Chi Dung, a freelance Vietnamese journalist, at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on November 21, 2019. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for conducting anti-state propaganda.  

The Ho Chi Minh City police released a statement following Dung’s arrest that said he had “seriously violated the law” and that his actions were “very dangerous,” according to a report by local news website VNExpress. The same report said police seized “several documents” from his house as part of their investigation. 

Police accused Dung of “producing, possessing, and spreading anti-state information and documents” and disseminating “distorted information,” according to news reports. On November 10, 2020, state prosecutors indicted Dung on the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the penal code at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy, according to reports

On January 5, 2021, Dung was sentenced to 15 years in prison, to be followed by three years of house arrest, in a one-day trial, according to news reports. In a January 18 statement, Dung said he would not appeal his conviction because the judicial system is not independent in Vietnam and that verdicts are mostly pre-determined. 

Dung frequently reported for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America and for independent websites including Dan Luan and Dan Lam Bao, according to Radio Free Asia and CPJ’s review of his writing.

He is also the founding chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a civil society organization that advocates for press freedom and reporters’ rights, according to the association’s website, which operates with restricted access. Several association members were arrested on Article 117 charges in 2020, as CPJ documented at the time.

In the weeks before his arrest, Dung’s reporting for Voice of America was sharply critical of a signed but not-yet-ratified European Union-Vietnam free trade agreement. Dung’s arrest came soon after he issued a petition on November 10, 2019, which CPJ reviewed, in his capacity as IJAVN chair, calling on EU leaders to postpone ratification of the trade agreement until Vietnam improves its press freedom and human rights situation. 

Dung was arrested under a similar anti-state accusation in 2012, and was released after six months without being tried, according to a statement by the International Federation of Human Rights. He has faced frequent harassment by authorities and was banned from traveling abroad in 2014, the statement said.

On July 1, 2020, the International Commission of Jurists issued a statement saying that Dung had been held in “incommunicado detention” since his initial arrest. 

Bui Thi Hong Loan, Dung’s wife, told CPJ via messaging app that Dung had started a hunger strike in June 2022 that was still ongoing as of November, to protest prison officials’ refusal to give prisoners medicine and dental treatment. His hunger strike limits his food intake to rice gruel.

Dung was being held at An Phuoc detention center, in Binh Duong province, as of November 2022, his wife said. Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s police forces and prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Dung’s status and health in detention in late 2022.