On April 5, The People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Nguyen Hoai Nam to three-and-a-half years in prison after finding him guilty of violating Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
According to the BBC, the court indictment stated that in 2018, Nam, a local reporter for Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper, published an investigative piece concerning the Vietnam Inland Waterway Administration and reported on alleged corrupt activities connected with the department.
On his Facebook account, the journalist proceeded to accuse Lieutenant General Tran Van Ve and several investigators from the Ministry of Public Security's Investigation Agency of corruption and bribery.
Nam was arrested for his social media posts on April 3, 2021. The journalist pleaded not guilty in court.
"Facebook is a tool to inform the public. I fought for the state, not for any person. I wrote articles with evidence, so it cannot be said that I lied or fabricated things”, Nam said in a statement.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Nam’s reports “negatively affected social security and order”, justifying his sentencing under Article 331. According to VnExpress, prosecutors recommended a jail term of four to five years but the court gave Nam ‘leniency’ for his “many merits and awards as a journalist”.
Article 331 has been heavily criticised as an anti-state provision that works to penalise those who abuse “the rights to freedom and democracy violate the State’s interests and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals”.
The IFJ said: “The sentencing of Nguyen Hoai Nam is concerning and another effort by Vietnamese authorities to stifle independent journalism and legitimate reportage. The IFJ calls on the government to immediately release the journalist and repeal Article 331 of the Vietnamese Penal Code so that journalists can continue to work without fear of persecution.”