The United States is deeply concerned over Vietnam’s conviction and sentencing of three members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam. The Association is a civil society organization that advocates for press freedom.
On January 5, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced the Association’s founder and head Pham Chi Dung to 15 years in prison. His deputy Nguyen Tuong Thuy and journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan were each given an 11-year sentence. The men were convicted under an anti-state provision that bans the production and dissemination of so-called “distorted information about the people’s government.”
In a statement, U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown called the sentences “harsh” and said that they “are the latest in a troubling and accelerating trend of arrests and convictions of Vietnamese citizens exercising rights enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution.”
Human rights organizations are also outraged. Amnesty International’s deputy regional director, Emerlynne Gil wrote, “Even by its own deeply repressive standards, the severity of the sentences show the depths being reached by Vietnam’s censors.”
Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, stated that the sentences of the three Vietnamese journalists were “shocking” and “clearly designed to extinguish any form of civil society debate.”
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The U.S. State Department, in its most recent human rights report, said that among significant human rights abuses in Vietnam were “the worst forms of restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including arbitrary arrest and prosecution of government critics, censorship, site blocking, and criminal libel laws.”
U.S. Principal Deputy Spokesperson Brown noted, “Press freedom is fundamental to transparency and accountable governance. Authors, bloggers and journalists often do their work at great risk and we urge governments and citizens worldwide to ensure their protection.”
“The United States,” he declared, “calls on the Vietnamese authorities to release all those unjustly detained and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely, without fear of retaliation.”