Vietnam’s independent journalists are under siege, and there is little cause for optimism.
On April 24, Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu became the latest journalist to be jailed for daring to criticize Vietnam’s ruling communist party. Dieu was handed an eight year sentence for criticizing the party and advocating for democracy on social media. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), Vietnam has one of the world’s most repressive environments for journalists, with only five countries scoring worse in the group’s latest annual report. These are difficult times for Vietnam’s independent journalists, and there is little cause for optimism.
The year 2020 saw a spate of high-profile arrests as six independent journalists were arrested. In October 2020, the authorities arrested human rights and democracy advocate Pham Doan Trang. Trang, who received the RSF Press Freedom Prize for Impact in 2019, was arrested on the day of the 24th annual U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, in a blatant display of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP)’s contempt for human rights. She was charged with publishing “propaganda” against the state, a loosely-defined term that is often used to lock-up critics of the regime.
Three months later, in January of this year, three members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, were handed lengthy prison sentences for writing articles which the government deemed beyond the pale. Thuy and Tuan received 11 years each, while Dung was given 15 years. The trio were convicted of spreading “distorted information,” in another example of the authorities using the broad scope of vaguely defined laws to clamp down on dissent.
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© 2021 Stewart Rees for The Diplomat