A court in Vietnam on January 5, 2021, sentenced Nguyen Tuong Thuy, contributor to Radio Free Asia Vietnamese Service, to 11 years in prison for defaming the Hanoi government.
Thuy, a former vice president of the Vietnam Independent Journalism Association, had blogged on civil rights and freedom of speech issues for RFA’s Vietnamese Service for six years. He visited the United States in 2014 to testify before the House of Representatives on media freedom problems in Vietnam.
Arrested in May 2020, Thuy was indicted along with IJAVN members Pham Chi Dung and Le Huu Minh Tuan for “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Dung was given a 15-year prison term while Tuan was jailed for 11 years.
“It’s appalling and unacceptable that providing objective reporting on Vietnam’s repressive government cost these journalists their freedom,” USAGM CEO Michael Pack said in a statement.
At their trial, the three defendants said they had founded the Independent Journalists Association to promote freedom of expression, democracy, and human rights only in accordance with permitted regulations, defense attorney Dang Dinh Manh wrote on his Facebook page after the trial, RFA reported.
On June 30, 2020, six human rights groups sent letters to the Prime Minister of Vietnam and the European Union calling for immediate and unconditional release of Thuy and two other human rights defenders. The groups urged the Vietnamese government “to cease all harassment of other activists from the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam,” according to a statement from the International Commission of Jurists.
“The harsh sentencing of Thuy and two other independent journalists is a blatant assault on basic freedoms and flies in the face of the freedom of expression enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution,” RFA President Stephen Yates said in a statement.
Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists said that “Vietnam’s outrageous sentencing of journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh to more than a decade in prison each shows that the country’s government has no intention of allowing even the most basic elements of a free press.”