Vietnam jails former radio journalist, arrests freelancers over ‘distorted information’, SE Asia News & Top Stories

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam arrested a former radio journalist on charges against the state on Friday, July 9, state media said after several other reporters were arrested in recent weeks.

The hardline administration moves quickly to root out dissenting opinions and arrest critics, especially those who find an audience on social media platforms.

On Friday, Mr. Thanh Pham Chi, a 68-year-old pro-democracy activist who harshly criticizes the regime on Facebook, was imprisoned for 5½ years by Vietnam for “producing, hoarding, disseminating and disseminating information and documents against the socialist republic” according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

The Vietnam News Agency report cited the Hanoi Court’s ruling that Mr. Thanh, a former editor of the state-controlled radio station Voice of Vietnam, had “spread distorted information that caused social concern” on his Facebook account and interviewed foreign media have.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Daniel Bastard said Mr. Thanh’s conviction “speaks volumes about the gross disregard for the rule of law and the country’s constitution by the Vietnamese authorities”.

“Pham Chi Thanh embodies the struggle of Vietnamese citizens for independent, truthful information,” he said, adding that Mr. Thanh is the “latest victim of the much tougher line the government has taken over the past five years,” he added .

Vietnamese police also arrested 51-year-old Dung Le Van, also known as Dung Vova, on the same charge as Mr. Thanh last month. Mr. Dung had been on the run for more than a month before his arrest.

As a freelancer, Mr. Dung had posted live reports on Facebook and Youtube discussing the country’s socio-economic and political situation, including its relations with neighboring China.

State media have also reported the recent arrests of at least four freelance journalists for “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the state”.

The four in the “Clean Journalism” group – an investigative reporting team – had openly discussed several controversial issues, including the deletion of names of some death row inmates and a land dispute in Dong Tam Township near Hanoi.

Vietnam bans all independent media and ranks 175th out of 180 countries in the 2020 RSF World Index of Press Freedom.

July 9, 2021