Vietnamese journalist Phan Kim Khanh is under house arrest after serving a six-year prison sentence on anti-state charges.
Khanh is under heavy state surveillance, with security cameras installed at both entrances of his home after his release from prison and move to house confinement on March 21, 2023, a source familiar with the journalist’s situation told CPJ via email on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal.
Under the terms of his house arrest, Khanh is barred from leaving his Yen Tap commune in Cam Khe District of northern Phu Tho province, the source told CPJ. He is barred from contacting political activists or independent journalists under the terms of his release, the source said.
Khanh, who established and managed two pro-democracy news websites that tackled issues of official corruption, was arrested at his home on March 21, 2017, in the Cam Khe district of northern Phu Tho province, according to news reports.
A government statement said Khanh posted "fabricated and distorted" information against Vietnam on two blogs, three Facebook pages, and two YouTube channels, reports said.
Prior to his arrest, Khanh established and managed the pro-democracy news websites Vietnam Weekly and Anti-corruption Newspaper, according to the reports. Vietnam Right Now, an independent news website, reported that Khanh had recently posted allegations of official corruption on one of his blogs.
On October 25, 2017, Khanh was sentenced to six years in prison and four years house arrest by the People’s Court of Thai Nguyen province for “propagandizing against the state,” an anti-state offense outlined under Article 88 of the penal code punishable by up to 20 years in prison, news reports said.
Khanh was transferred from Cam Son commune, the Phu Luong district’s prison in Thai Nguyen province, to Ha Nam province’s Nam Ha prison in January 2018, according to The 88 Project, a rights group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners.
On September 30, 2018, Khanh asked his father during a prison visit to contact his lawyer regarding an appeal petition he said prison authorities failed to forward to relevant justice officials after his conviction, according to The 88 Project.
In April 2019, prison authorities refused to forward letters Khanh wrote to a court requesting an appeal, according to his sister Phan Thi Trang, who was quoted in a report by U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia. In an open letter he wrote in May 2019, Khanh’s father Phan Van Dung said his son’s health had “badly deteriorated” and that prison officials prohibited him from reading books including the Bible.
The letter did not detail his son’s health problems, but said that Khanh was under “extreme pressure” and was “badly treated” by prison guards who frequently threatened to move him into solitary confinement and bar family visits if he did not stop trying to appeal his sentence.
Khanh’s father said after a January 17, 2020, prison visit that Khanh had been held in solitary confinement and denied access to the prison cafeteria as punishment for rebelling against the prison’s management, according to The 88 Project. Dung said there had been a noticeable deterioration of Khanh’s health, possibly from malnutrition.
On September 16, 2019, Freedom Now, a Washington, D.C.-based legal advocacy group, and international law firm Dechert L.L.P. sent a petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Khanh’s behalf, that accused Vietnam of breaking international laws in arresting and prosecuting the journalist.
The U.N. Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion on May 29, 2020, stating that Khanh’s detention was “arbitrary” and a violation of international law. It said that Khanh was “specifically targeted for his independent reporting, and his detention is in violation of his right to freedom of expression, both de jure and de facto.”
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 Khanh’s house arrest and his allegations of mistreatment.