Vietnam: Eight-year sentence for journalist upheld

On September 29, citizen journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu’s eight-year sentence under Vietnam’s Penal Code was upheld in the court of appeal in Danang. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the use of the Penal Code to silence critical voices and calls for the immediate release of Tuyet Dieu.

Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu stands trial at the People's Court in Phu Yen province, Vietnam on April 23, 2021. Credit: Radio Free Asia

Tuyet Dieu’s appeal was refused in Danang’s court, more than a year after her arrest and detainment on August 21, 2020. She was sentenced on April 23, 2021 for breaching article 117 of the Vietnamese penal code, which criminalises “creating, storing and disseminating information and materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. Reports indicate that Tuyet Dieu endured ongoing harassment by police in the years before her arrest.

Previously an employee of a state-run newspaper, Tuyet Dieu had managed a Facebook and YouTube account where she published 25 articles and nine videos considered ‘anti-state’ by authorities. During a search of Tuyet Dieu’s home, authorities found materials sympathetic to the imprisoned pro-democracy activist Nguyen Viet Dung on her laptop.

According to Tuyet Dieu’s lawyer, Nguyen Kha Thanh, she pleaded innocent at her trial earlier this year. Thanh said that his client’s sentence was harsh given she had an otherwise clean record.

She did not accept the accusations as the trial failed to find a person harmed by her actions,” Thanh said.“But the court said her actions caused harm to the nation, a common tactic that allows them to not have to show any specific harmed individuals,” he added.

Tuyet Dieu’s communication with her lawyer and relatives was barred for the first three months of her imprisonment. Her original trial was postponed without justification, a change only announced upon her lawyer’s arrival in court.

Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code is a vaguely defined piece of legislation commonly used to silence criticism of the Vietnamese government. Journalists Pham Chi Thanh and Le Van Dung, both vocal critics of Vietnam’s single-party system, were sentenced under the article earlier this year.

The IFJ said: “Vietnam’s draconian Penal Code is evidently being employed to arbitrarily persecute journalists and media workers, quashing freedom of expression and silencing legitimate reportage. The IFJ urges the Vietnamese government to immediately release Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu and drop all charges against her.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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