“Blogging is not a Crime”: Blogger’s Six-Year Sentence Appalling Example of Punishing Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—The conviction and sentencing of Vietnamese blogger Phan Kim Khánh to six years’ imprisonment on charges of “propaganda against the state” is yet another appalling example of Vietnam’s relentless criminalization of the right to free expression, PEN America said today.
Phan Kim Khánh, a student and blogger, was convicted on October 25 under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code of “propaganda against the state.”Khánh was sentenced to six years imprisonment as well as an additional four years of probation. The charges stem from Khánh’s operation of two blogs, ‘Báo Tham nhũng’ [Anti-corruption Newspaper] and ‘Tuần Việt Nam’ [Vietnam Weekly], as well as related Facebook and YouTube accounts. Addressing the court, Khánh reportedly acknowledged running the social media platforms but questioned how blogging on the subject of corruption could constitute a crime. Khánh was first arrested in March 2017 and was kept in pre-trial detention until his October 25 trial—more than half a year later. According to his lawyer, Khánh’s family was unable to visit him in this time. In the days before the trial, Khánh’s lawyer noted that his health was weak. His October 25 trial—in which he was both convicted and sentenced—lasted less than a day.
Article 88 has been widely used to prosecute bloggers and others the Vietnamese government views as dissidents, and enables the court to impose draconian prison sentences. Other notable Vietnamese bloggers prosecuted under Article 88 include internationally-recognized Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, or “Mother Mushroom,” and Nguyen Huu Vinh, or “Ahn Ba Sam,” along with his colleague Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy.
“This is another painfully clear example of a Vietnamese blogger punished for their free expression,” said James Tager, Senior Manager of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Blogging is not a crime, despite Vietnam’s repeated efforts to treat it as one. Phan Kim Khánh should be released immediately, and the Vietnamese government should recognize that Article 88 is completely inconsistent with international guarantees regarding the right to free expression.”
PEN America has raised concerns in the past regarding Vietnamese bloggers and writers including Ahn Ba Sam, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, and Mother Mushroom, and featured the cases of imprisoned Vietnamese bloggers in March 2017.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected], +1.646.981.0685