Pham Chi Dung
Current Status: Sentenced to prison
Other Names: Phạm Chí Dũng
Date of Birth: 1966
Last Known Prison: Xuan Loc prison, Dong Nai province
Areas of Activism:
- Freedom of expression
Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:
- Denial of Legal Representation
- Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
Three members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) were sentenced to a total of 37 years in prison after a trial lasting half a day. Pham Chi Dung, 55, received 15 years; Nguyen Tuong Thuy, 69, received 11 years; and Le Huu Minh Tuan, 32, received 11 years. All three were convicted of “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Thuy is known to be in poor health; the long sentences could cause serious health problems. You can read our analysis of the trial here. Before his sentencing, Thuy made this statement: “All my articles are just yearnings for our people and our country. In the future, activities like mine will be considered perfectly normal.” Dung said, “A harsh sentence for independent journalists like us will show the world what ‘freedom of the press’ looks like in Vietnam. It’ll also create problems in international relations during this difficult period.”
Update, late January: Pham Chi Dung decided not to appeal his sentence. In a statement, Dung said the reason is because there is no independent judicial system in Vietnam, the verdicts are mostly pre-determined anyway.
Pham Chi Dung’s mother wrote about her son in a New Year's letter to the public. The letter was posted on the website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, of which Dung was a co-founder with Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and for which he and Thuy were arrested. In the heartfelt letter, Mrs. Xuan Minh reiterated her support for her son’s actions, stating that he’d done nothing illegal or wrong. She said she is not ashamed that he’s in prison; on the contrary, she’s very proud of him. She also reminded those in power of what President Barrack Obama said when he visited Vietnam in 2016, that because in a democratic system the president and his administrations are constantly criticized, the country as a whole benefits by becoming better and stronger.
Details - Background, History of Activism, Contact Information.
Pham Chi Dung graduated from the Military Technical Academy and obtained a PhD Degree in Economics. His father, Pham Van Hung, is a former Head of the Party Committee’s Organization Commission of Ho Chi Minh City.
Profile photo source: Facebook Pham Chi Dung
Dung has been writing with several pen names including Việt Thắng, Viết Lê Quân, and Thường Sơn, since 1986 and was an active member of Writer Association of Ho Chi Minh City.
Pham Chi Dung himself has been a frequent commentator on Vietnamese politics in Vietnamese-language independent media such as VOA Vietnamese, as well as major international news outlets, such as Foreign Policy, NBC News, and Nikkei Asian Review. Reporters Without Borders profiles him as an “information hero.” For his outspoken commentaries on and critics of the regime, he has been subject to arbitrary detention and a travel ban in recent years.
While serving as a military officer in the Internal Security Commission of Ho Chi Minh City, Dung was arrested and prosecuted for “conspiring to overthrow the government” and “anti-government propaganda” in July 2012. His arrest was probably due to his sensitive articles on corruption and government mismanagement. Finally, public security discharged him and released him after six months of detention.
In December 2013, Dung resigned from the Communist Party after being a member for 20 years. He became the chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, a group of independent reporters founded in 2014 to advocate for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and democracy.
On February 1, 2014, Dung was banned from traveling to Geneva at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi. He was on the way to attend and speak at the UN Human Rights Review of Vietnam, in accordance with an invitation from Human Rights Watch. The public security confiscated his passport and ordered him to return his residence in Ho Chi Minh City for further interrogation.
On June 25, 2015, Dung was forcibly arrested by a group of twenty public officials in Ho Chi Minh City and interrogated for eight hours. While questioning Dung on the case of Nguyen Quang Lap, the public security also requested him to close Viet Nam Thoi Bao Newspaper, a newspaper run by the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.
Đình chỉ vụ nhà báo Phạm Chí Dũng, British Broadcasting Corporation Vietnamese, March 13, 2013
Nhà báo Phạm Chí Dũng xin ra khỏi đảng, Radio Free Asia, December 5, 2013
Phạm Chí Dũng bị cấm đi Genève, Radio Free Asia, February 1, 2014
Vietnam: Journalist Barred From Travel to UN Rights Review, PEN International, February 2, 2014
Công an yêu cầu TS Phạm Chí Dũng chấm dứt hoạt động Hội Nhà báo Độc lập, Radio France internationale Vietnamese, June 25, 2015
5 năm vượt thác của những người làm báo tự do, Viet Nam Thoi Bao, July 10, 2019
Arrested November 21, 2019. Sentenced to 15 years in prison under Art. 117 (2015 Code). Expected Release is November 21, 2034.
- Art. 117 (2015 Code)
- freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of expression
- freedom of association
- fair trial
- UN Special Rapporteurs
- Vietnamese civil society groups
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- US government
- One Free Press Coalition
- International Federation for Human Rights
- UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- International government officials
- The European Union
- Reporters Without Borders
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Pham Chi Dung was arrested on November 21, 2019 by the public security forces of Ho Chi Minh City. He is charged under Article 117 of Vietnam 2015 Criminal Code for “producing, storing and disseminating” documents opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. While state media asserts that he has participated in “very dangerous and serious conduct that negatively affects national social stability, public order of Ho Chi Minh City,” they can only point out that he established and organized a “civil society organization.”
Mr. Dung is a high-profiled figure among both HCMC Communist Party and pro-democracy activists.
The website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, which is also a news website called the Vietnam Times (Viet Nam Thoi Bao), has become inaccessible after Dung’s arrest.
Journalist Pham Chi Dung was being denied contact with a lawyer, almost two months since he was arrested. Under the terms of his pre-trial detention, he will not be allowed to meet with a lawyer until authorities have finished their initial investigation. Though this is a provision of Vietnamese law, it violates international rights to legal representation, and former political prisoners have often recounted after their release their troubles communicating with their lawyers even after the initial investigation period ended.
The government has finished its investigation of Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan. The two independent journalists, who have been detained since their arrest in May, along with Pham Chi Dung, who was arrested in November last year, have been charged under Article 117, “making, storing or distributing information against the state.” Thuy’s wife said their lawyer will be Nguyen Van Mieng. Some observers expect that the trial against the three will be held soon.
Lawyers for jailed journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan say they have finally received paperwork that allows them to start working on the cases on behalf of their clients, after the Procuracy office finished its investigation. Attorney Nguyen Van Mieng reported that since their arrests, the three men have not yet been allowed to talk to a lawyer. He also said the men were allowed to receive supplies sent by their families on November 6, but he was not able to see them due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, lawyer for Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, said the order for their temporary detention was signed on November 12, 2020, allowing for three months and 15 days of additional detention. It is thus expected that their first instance trials will take place toward the end of January 2021. Dung said that after reading the 12-page indictment against him, “I could not see where I broke the law.” Thuy said, “Of the 45 articles attributed to me, some weren’t even mine.” He said he’d appeal the indictment within 15 days.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement on behalf of Pham Chi Dung, calling for Dung's immediate release from prison.
Member of the European Parliament Jude Kirton-Darling sent a letter to Vietnam's Ambassador to the EU, Vu Anh Quang, about Dung's arrest. "His arrest sends a very alarming signal while the European Parliament is currently scrutinising the agreements with Vietnam," she wrote. Read the full letter, here.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report calling for information in the cases of Pham Chi Dung and activist Dinh Thi Phuong Thao. Thao was detained for questioning and her passport confiscated when she returned to Vietnam in November 2019; Dung was arrested in November 2019 and still awaits trial. In the statement, the Rapporteurs call for answers from the Vietnamese government about these incidents, the treatment of the people involved, and the legal assurances that they should have been granted. The government now has 60 days to respond.
As co-chairs of the Media Freedom Coalition, comprising 40 countries, Canada and the UK have issued a statement calling attention to Vietnam’s arbitrary arrests of journalists such as Pham Chi Dung and Pham Doan Trang. They urged Vietnam to “ensure its actions and laws are consistent with Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments.”
Prior to and after the January 5 trial of Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Chi Dung, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, many organizations expressed their support for the activists and pressed for the Vietnamese government to drop the charges against them, including:
- The European Union’s External Action Service
- US Department of State
- The Vietnamese
- International Federation for Human Rights
- Reporters Without Borders
- Vietnam Human Rights Network
The Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also released a statement condemning the trial, saying “We are deeply concerned by the use of vaguely-defined laws to arbitrarily detain an increasing number of independent journalists, bloggers, online commentators and human rights defenders – in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”
Pham Chi Dung, Former Party Security Officer, Chairman of the Independent Journalist Association, Arrested Under Article 117, The 88 Project, November 21, 2019
Vietnam’s assault on a journalist, Asia Times, November 22, 2019
Committee to Protect Journalists, Statement on Arrest of Pham Chi Dung, November 22, 2019
Letter on the Arrest of Pham Chi Dung by MEP Jude Kirton-Darling, November 22, 2019
Jailed Journalist Urges EU Not to Ratify FTA With Vietnam, Radio Free Asia, December 3, 2019
Profile last updated: 2021-09-23 18:24:06