Pham Chi Thanh, a freelance Vietnamese journalist who blogs under the pseudonym Pham Thanh, was arrested on May 21, 2020, at his home in Hanoi, and charged under Article 117 of the country’s criminal code, a provision that criminalizes “opposing the state.” He is currently serving a prison sentence of five years and six months.
Thanh is a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a local unsanctioned independent press group, according to a representative from the journalists’ association, who asked to remain anonymous, citing security concerns.
On his independent blog, Thanh frequently wrote about civil rights and freedom of speech, according to Rohit Mahajan, Radio Free Asia’s vice president of communications, who is familiar with Thanh’s case and communicated with CPJ by email.
On July 9, 2021, a Hanoi court sentenced Thanh to five years and six months in prison under Article 117, a provision that bars “making, storing, distributing or spreading” news or information against the state, news reports said.
Thanh’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, was quoted by a Radio Free Asia report as saying that the trial was “inappropriate and unlawful,” and that his client maintained his innocence. CPJ could not immediately determine whether Thanh planned to appeal the conviction.
The charges stemmed from nearly 100 articles Thanh posted on his personal blog and a book he self-published, which Hanoi People’s Procuracy prosecutors alleged included content “distorting and defaming the government,” local reports said.
Thanh’s health has suffered in detention. He sustained an injury during a fall, and he also suffers from headaches and has difficulty breathing, according to a Facebook post by his wife, Nguyen Thi Nghiem.
Thanh was held in pretrial detention at Hanoi’s Hoa Lo Prison, according to The 88 Project, an advocacy group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners, and the IJAVN representative. CPJ could not confirm if he was being held in the same facility after his conviction.
In late 2022, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment about Thanh’s sentencing and health in prison.