April 24, 2021
Freelance Journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu Convicted of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda,” Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison
Defend the Defenders, April 23, 2021
On April 23, the People’s Court of Phu Yen province convicted local freelance journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, sentencing her to eight years in prison, Defend the Defenders has learned.
According to the case indictment, she was found guilty of producing and sharing a total of 24 articles and livestreams on social networks Facebook and Youtube with the content defaming the country’s senior leaders and distorting policies of Vietnam’s authoritarian regime.
Ms. Dieu, a 38-year-old former journalist of the Phu Yen newspaper- the official outlet of the province’s authorities, was arrested on August 21, 2020. She has been held incommunicado in the first three months and was allowed to meet her attorney for defense preparation from November last year. The 33-year-old journalist faces imprisonment of between five and 12 years in prison if she is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Ms. Dieu graduated journalism from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City). Later, she worked for Phu Yen newspaper, the official voice of the province’s Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s Committee. However, she left the newspaper and focused on criticizing the communist regime’s socio-economic issues such as systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Phu Yen province’s police have accused her of using Facebook accounts “Tuyết Diệu Babel” and “Trần Thị Tuyết Diệu Journalist” as well as Youtube channel named Tuyết Diệu Trần to disseminate hundreds of articles and videoclips to defame communist leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh, and distort the party’s policies.
In recent years, she has been harassed many times by the police forces. Once she was kidnapped and tortured by police in the central province of Nghe An.
She is among dozens of independent journalists and Facebookers being arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” last year, one of many controversial allegations in the National Security provisions of Vietnam’s Criminal Code. The UN Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and many democratic governments as well as international rights groups have called Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to remove Article 117 and other allegations from the code because it is used to silence government’s critics.
In early January this year, Vietnam convicted three members of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced them to a total 37 years in prison and nine years of probation. Its President Dr. Pham Chi Dung was given the highest imprisonment record of 15 years in prison for the charge and three years of probation while Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and young member Le Huu Minh Tuan were sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years of probation each.
Last year, pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years of probation while human rights defender Nguyen Trung Linh was given 12 years in prison for the same allegation.
As many as 39 activists were convicted and still being imprisoned while 14 others are held in pre-trial detention for “conducting anti-state propaganda,” according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Among them are prominent human rights defender and political blogger Pham Doan Trang and environmentalist Dinh Thi Thu Thuy.
Her conviction is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders after the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and prior to the elections of the country’s rubber-stamped legislative body National Assembly. The persecution seems to continue for years after many conservative figures of the regime were re-elected to hold senior positions of the country’s leadership in the next five years. General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Minister of Public Security To Lam remain their positions, former government leader Nguyen Xuan Phuc was switched to the new state president while his prime minister post was held by former police general Pham Minh Chinh.
Mr. Trong, who has held the party’s chief since 2011, is listed as one of the global biggest predators of Internet and press freedom by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) while Vietnam is among world biggest prisoners of journalists, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
In its global report on press freedom in 2021 released on April 21, RSF says there is no freedom of press in Vietnam and the Southeast Asian nation was ranked at the 175th position among 180 surveyed countries, unchanged from 2020.