Vietnam: Journalist sentenced to ‘re-education’ for alleged defamation

Phan Bui Bao Thy was sentenced on April 7 by the People’s Court of Quảng Trị to one year of mandatory ‘re-education’ classes for alleged defamation. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the sentencing and calls on the Vietnamese authorities to withdraw all charges against Phan Bui Bao Thy.

Journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy. Credit: Twitter

The People’s Court handed Phan Bui Bao Thy the sentence for allegedly defaming state leaders on social media. Those sentenced to ‘re-education’ are able to live outside prison but are required to attend mandatory classes on Vietnam’s local law and regulation. 

According to Asia Politik, Thy, who is the bureau chief of the online magazine Giao Duc Va Thoi Dai (Age and Education), was charged under Article 331 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.  

Officials agreed on the journalist’s sentence after five days of deliberation. 

The court referred to 79 Facebook posts published by Thy, as well as Vietnamese businessman Le Anh Dung, between April 2020 and February 2021, claiming they violated the “reputation, honour and dignity” of state leaders. Dung was handed the same punishment but sentenced for 18 months. 

Thy’s is the second journalist in one week to be charged under Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. On April 5, Nguyen Hoai Nam was handed a three-and-a-half-year prison term for a report he published that allegedly criticised the state. 

Article 331 penalises those who allegedly abuse “the rights to freedom and democracy or violate the State’s interests and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals”.  

The IFJ said: “The continuing use of the Penal Code to arbitrarily detain journalists gravely impacts freedom of expression and press freedom in Vietnam. The IFJ urges the Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against the Phan Bui Bao Thy and allow media workers to work freely, without the threat of harassment, intimidation, or arrest.” 

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

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

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram