Vietnam Arrests Well-known Independent Journalist amid Increasing Crackdown on Local Bloggers

Dr. Pham Chi Dung at an anti-China protest in Ho Chi Minh City in 2011



Defend the Defenders, November 21, 2019


On November 21, Vietnam’s security forces arrested well-known independent journalist Pham Chi Dung on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code for his writings criticizing the communist regime.

State media reported that security officers detained Dr. Dung from his private residence in Ho Chi Minh City. He will be held incommunicado in the next four months for investigation, and face imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if is convicted.

Citing police’s sources, state media reported that he has carried out anti-regime activities such as producing anti-state articles, cooperating with foreign media, providing interviews and articles with distorted information.

Mr. Dung obtained PhD degree in economics. He was arrested for the first time in 2014 when he was a security official of the party organization in HCM City. He was alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” and subversion but released without being tried after six months in police custody.

He is a political writer, with regular contributions for the Voice of America (VOA), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Radio Free Asia (RFA) under pennames of Viet Thang, Viet Le Quan, Thuong Son, and Pham Chi Dung.

In 2014, he and many other writers formed the unregistered Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) which strives to fight for freedom of the press in the Southeast Asian nation. Its members have been producing thousands of articles about the country’s problems which the state media tries not to cover.

Its website was closed immediately after his detention due to the government online attack, said an IJAVN’s representative.

Dr. Dung was listed among the world’s information heroes of Reporters Without Borders in 2014. Due to his critical writings, he has been harassed by security forces, including being barred from travel abroad once in 2014 and placed de facto under house arrest in many occasions since

The arrest of Dr. Dung is part of Vietnam’s ongoing intensified crackdown on the local dissent and independent bloggers. Security forces are also attacking the Liberal Publishing House and unsanctioned Cây Xanh (Green Trees) and persecuting their staffs in recent months. So far this year, the communist government has arrested 29 activists, including 19 bloggers for their online postings.

Vietnam is holding at least 238 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Last week, the communist regime convicted four political activists and human rights defenders with a total of 44 years in prison and 15 years of probation in the trials failed to meet international standards for a fair hearing.