Journalist of State-run Newspaper Arrested for Defaming Corrupted High-ranking Officials, Accused of Abusing Democratic Freedom

Facebook account Quang Tri 357


Defend the Defenders, January 11, 2021


Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Tri have arrested Mr. Phan Bui Bao Thy, the office chief of the state-run newspaper Giao Duc va Thoi Dai (Education and Times), and Mr. Le Anh Dung on the allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s Criminal Code.

Citing the province’s Police Department, the state-controlled media reported that the two guys will be held at least two months for investigation their online crimes aiming to defame senior officials including former provincial communist leader and incumbent Vice Minister of Culture-Tourism and Sport Nguyen Van Hung and incumbent province’s chairman Vo Van Hung.

The two guys were reportedly detained by the local police from February 5 for interrogation, and they were officially charged on February 10. Police also conducted search in their private residences and confiscated a large amount of data related to their online activities, according to the state-controlled media.

Particularly, journalist Thy and his partner Dung were said to use a number of Facebook accounts such as Quảng Trị 357, “Lý Tú Dương,” “Thu Hà,” “Hoàng Lê,” and “tin Quảng Trị 246” to publish numerous articles, photos, and videos to accuse Quang Tri province’s leaders of wrongdoings and corruption in local infrastructure and property projects.

Mr. Thy is among dozens of journalists and independent bloggers being arrested and jailed for their critical writings against the communist regime and its senior leaders. They include prominent human rights defender and world-recognized political bloggers Pham Doan Trang and Pham Chi Dung, and Radio Free Asia blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy. Ms. Trang is held incommunicado since her arrested in early October last year while Mr. Dung and Mr. Thuy were convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” in early January this year and sentenced to 15 years and 11 years in prison, respectively.

In mid-December last year, Vietnam’s authorities also arrested well-known Facebooker Truong Chau Huu Danh and charged him with “abusing democratic freedom” for his anti-corruption posts.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s statistics show that as of December 31, 2020, Vietnam is detaining seven professional journalists and 21 bloggers after the government launched a new wave of arrests before the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam which ended on Feb 1. On its  2020 Press Freedom Index, RSF placed Vietnam at the 175th out of 180 countries in the world.

The New York-based group Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) has also listed Vietnam among world’s biggest prisons for journalists.