September 10, 2020
Defend the Defenders, September 9, 2020
Vietnam’s security forces continue the persecution against the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) after arresting its key members, conducting summoning some other members for interrogation in recent days.
Mr. Hoang Van Hung from Hanoi said he was summoned by the Security Investigation Agency of the Hanoi Police Department to its office on September 1 for questioning about his membership to the organization and his activities as well as writing for its website vietnamthoibao.org.
During the interrogation, Mr. Hung admitted that he is a member of IJAVN and has some articles posted on its website, however, he did not remember details of his writing. He refused to give other details, including the passwords of his accounts on Gmail and other online applications.
Several days later, Mr. Nguyen Thien Nhan, a member of the IJAVN’s Board Management was also summoned to the Security Investigation Agency of Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department for questioning on September 8. During the interrogation which lasted from 8 am to 5 pm, police officers gave numerous questions about the IJAVN and his involvement in the organization. However, he did not give details as the investigators requested him to keep the content of the interrogation unpublicized.
Nhan said before going to the questioning meeting, he gave his phones and laptop to his trusted friend so the interrogators had no access to them. Police told him that he has to undergo other interrogations in the future.
The IJAVN was established in 2014 with the aim to work for freedom of the press in the one-party regime. Numerous articles of its members have criticized the regime on various issues, including human rights abuse, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution due to the regime’s unstable economic development, the government weak response to China’s violations to the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), bad economic policies, etc.
The communist government probably is affected by such articles so it is striving to silence the IJAVN. Along with using technology to attack IJAVN’s website, Vietnam’s security forces have been implementing series of measures to persecute its members, from preventing them to gather or meet with foreign diplomats to arresting a number of its key members.
In early November last year, HCM City Police Department arrested its President Dr. Pham Chi Dung, who was honored with the Information Hero award of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with imprisonment of between seven to 12 years or even up to 20 years. Next year, on May 23, the police arrested acting President Nguyen Tuong Thuy after detaining blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh) two days earlier. The two independent writers at their 70-year age were charged with the same allegation. The persecution against the organization continues with the arrest of another member named Le Huu Minh Tuan on June 12, and police threaten to detain more members of the organization in a bid to expand the case.
Vietnam, placed at 175th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index of RSF in 2020, has arrested 18 bloggers so far this year, 12 of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” and four others were alleged of “abusing democratic freedom” for criticizing the communist government.