Harsh prison sentences and press freedom in Vietnam

Commemorative photo of “Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam” on the occasion of its launch on July 4, 2014.

Journalist Le Ha, in charge of the independent television channel “Vietnamese TV,” on the evening of January 6, told RFA that a 37-year prison sentence was pronounced by a Vietnamese court to three members of the “Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam” including Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan is a violation of Vietnamese law as well as a violation of international regulations.

“From the personal point of view of participants in the independent journalism sector, all those who work in the independent journalism sector speak their voices and they write correct critics in the Vietnamese Constitution on the basic rights of citizens as well as in compliance with international human rights conventions. They exercise those rights which are natural and fundamental rights. So with such a sentence in order to intimidate and silence the voices of those who are participating in the remaining journalism field in society. I think those sentences violate the country’s law as well as international standards.”

RFA noted in the press release of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), released on January 5, RSF Regional Office Director for Asia-Pacific, Mr. Daniel Bastard emphasized that Vietnam’s authorities often use Article 117 of the Criminal Code to accuse dissidents and independent journalists, most recently against 3 members of the “Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam” to silence those who speak differently with the propaganda lines of the Communist Party of Vietnam. However, Mr. Daniel Bastard pointed out that Article 117 of the Criminal Code is inconsistent with Article 25 of the Constitution of Vietnam, the constitution on freedom of communication of Vietnamese citizens.

On the same day January 5, Senior Representative for Southeast Asia of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mr. Shawn Crispin, stated in the organization’s press release that “cruel prison sentences more than a decade the Vietnamese government against every journalist including Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan shows that Hanoi has no intention of permitting even the most basic elements of freedom of the press in the territory of Vietnam.”

According to the personal opinion of participants in the independent journalism field, all those who work in the independent journalism field speak their voice and write the correct reviews in the Vietnamese Constitution on basic rights of citizens as well as compliance with International Covenants on human rights. They exercise those rights which are natural and fundamental rights. So with such a sentence in order to intimidate and silence the voices of those who are participating in the remaining journalism field in society. I think those judgments violate the law as well as violate the rules of international standards-Journalist Le Ha

How will the situation of press freedom?

Journalist Vo Van Tao, on the evening of January 6, from Nha Trang spoke to RFA regarding a 37-year prison sentence that had just been pronounced to three independent journalists in Vietnam.

After the recent case targeting Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam’ led by Pham Chi Dung, it shows a sign that many people are also concerned about the harsher situation of press freedom and Human rights in Vietnam in the coming time. I think that concern is not unfounded, but I think it depends on the personnel change of the Communist Party of Vietnam after the 13th Party National Congress.”

Journalist Vo Van Tao reiterated that he had made his comments about the situation of press freedom and human rights in Vietnam facing difficulties after the 12th National Congress. The reason given by journalist Vo Van Tao is due to the fact that the police and the military are overwhelmed by the highest leadership bodies of the Communist Party of Vietnam and in the judicial system. Therefore, the past period has been a tough one for the fighters for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Vietnam.

With a similar argument, journalist Vo Van Tao raised his views on the situation of freedom, democracy, and human rights as well as freedom of the press in Vietnam in the coming time, after the 13th Congress.

If the young, radical and not heavily infected with Marxism-Leninism dogma but dominates, replacing the old personnel, I think the situation is not so bad. If the opposite is true, the situation is more and more tragic.”

Journalist Pham Thanh

Respond to RFA’s question whether journalists being detained by the Vietnamese Government, such as Pham Doan Trang and Pham Thanh, will face similar sentences as the 3 members of the “Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam,” journalist Vo Van Tao asserted that even if the Vietnamese political scene changes, we cannot be optimistic about the fate of these journalists.

The fate of those who have not yet been taken to courts, such as the famous figures Pham Doan Trang and Pham Thanh… in my opinion, basically, they will go to trial in the near future. And if there is a change in Vietnamese politics in the direction of progress, it will not be implemented in time to allow the relevant sectors such as the police, courts, and procuracies to change. I think that is unlikely to happen. In general, the future of democracy activists who have not yet been taken to court or convicted is also very bleak.”

Still continuing to pursue press freedom!

Meanwhile, journalist Le Ha said that according to his notes, whether the political context in Vietnam is renewed or not and no matter how harsh the prison sentences for independent journalists are, it can stop those who have chosen to operate in the free press.

I think it will affect some independent bloggers and journalists somewhat. However, in my opinion, no matter how the verdict is pronounced, the voice of those who work in the independent media press must not be afraid. Because it is the most fundamental right and when it has been determined that it may be subjected to hatred, arrest, or forced prison sentences by the authorities. The people involved in that field won’t stop either. They continue on the path they’ve chosen to do the job.”

Journalist Do Cao Cuong, who claimed to “kill me, then keep me silent,” on January 6, shared with RFA as a confirmation of journalist Le Ha’s recognition.

In general, when journalists see it injustice, we speak up. If I do it right, I just do it, and continue with the work of effectively informing the people about knowledge to help many people.”

Through discussions with independent journalists in the country, we heard them comment that the situation of press freedom and democracy-human rights in Vietnam could be a darker picture, through the verdict imprisonment of 37 years for 3 members of the “Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam.” However, the Hanoi government will also face many challenges in relations with the world, after making the decision to imprison 3 independent journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan.

One day after the Vietnamese Court declared a total of 37 years in prison and 9 years’ probation for 3 members of the ” Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam,” the European Union released a statement affirming Vietnam increased arrests, defaming and condemning journalists and human rights defenders for being contrary to the Vietnamese Constitution and international conventions that Vietnam has signed, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. At the same time, the European Union reiterated that Viet Nam had accepted recommendations to ensure and remove restrictions on freedom of expression and expression, within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The European Union said it will continue to monitor and work with Vietnamese authorities and all stakeholders to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam.

Thoibao.de (Translated)

Source: https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/a-total-of-37-years-in-prison-given-toijavn-not-stopping-the-trend-of-freedom-of-press-in-vn-01062021120312.html

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