Journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy, head of the representative office of Giáo dục & Thời đại (Education & Times) newspaper in Danang, on February 10, was probed and arrested for allegedly “setting up anonymous accounts on Facebook to defame leaders.”
Citing information from the Quang Tri province’s Police Department, Vietnam’s state-controlled media reported that the Security Investigation Agency has decided to detain journalist Bao Thy to investigate the criminal act of “abusing democratic freedoms infringes upon the State’s interests, legal rights, and interests of organizations and individuals” according to Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
Several other journalists, including Truong Chau Huu Danh and Pham Doan Trang, were arrested last year on the same charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
Along with the prosecution order, journalist Bao Thy, 50, was also arrested and detained for 2 months to serve the investigation, according to the Tuoi Tre newspaper. The order of prosecution and detention was issued 5 days after Mr. Bao Thy was summoned by the local police for questioning.
Previously, on social networks appeared many Facebook accounts posting many articles, pictures, videos … with content “defaming and offending the reputation and honor of individuals, including Provincial leaders and state officials from country’s ministries and central agencies,” according to Ho Chi Minh City Law online newspaper (PLO).
According to VietNamNet newspaper, Quang Tri police on February 5 searched the whereabouts of Mr. Bao Thy in Danang, collecting many documents related to the above accusation.
According to PLO, the journalist of the Ministry of Education and Training’s newspaper has confessed that Mr. Le Anh Dung, who was also prosecuted and detained on Feb 10, drafted many articles “defaming Quang Tri province’s leaders.”
Quang Tri police seized a total of more than 10,000 pages of related documents from the phones and personal computers of the two people mentioned above, according to Dan Viet.
According to the annual report of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released late last year, Vietnam and China are among five countries considered the “world largest prisons” for journalists.
RSF statistics show that as of December 2020, Vietnam is detaining 7 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 just ended on Feb 1.
Last month, Vietnam sentenced three independent journalists, including prominent dissident blogger Pham Chi Dung, to a combined total of 37 years in prison, a sentence condemned by the US and the European Union “harshly.”
Vietnam ranks 175th out of 180 countries in the world on the RSF’s 2020 Press Freedom Index.