March Featured Case: Vietnamese Bloggers Imprisoned for “Anti-State” Articles
One year ago this month, Vietnamese bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy were convicted of publishing anti-state articles and sentenced to five and three years in prison, respectively.
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Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy are currently in prison under Article 258(2) of Vietnam’s Penal Code: “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.” This provision is used liberally in Vietnam to punish bloggers, journalists, and other human rights defenders and dissidents who peacefully express critical views of the government.
A former policeman and member of the Communist Party, Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam) founded three news-aggregating blogs—“Ba Sam” (Talking Nonsense), “Dan Quyen” (Civil Rights), and “Chep Su Viet” (Writing Vietnamese History)—to examine social, political, economic, and cultural issues through articles and commentaries by multiple contributors. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy serves as his editorial assistant.
Arrested on May 5, 2014, and held in pre-trial detention for 22 months, Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy were summoned to court on March 23, 2016. Their extensive “temporary” detention violates Article 120 of Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code, which allows up to six months of temporary detention for investigation of“serious offenses.”
The bloggers were found guilty in a one-day trial and sentenced immediately.
There are 24 articles specifically mentioned in the case, 12 published on “Dan Quyen” and 12 on “Chep Su Viet.” According to the indictment, these articles contained “untruthful and baseless content” which served to, among other things, “present a one-sided and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry.” The two websites combined received over 3.7 million page views.
“Ba Sam” had previously come under fire in 2012 for advising readers on how to circumvent Vietnamese firewalls to access international news stories on the Internet, and has reportedly suffered several cyber attacks.