Vietnamese authorities on Thursday sentenced an activist blogger to six years in jail for ‘conducting propaganda’ against the one-party state on charges rights groups say Hanoi routinely uses to silence dissent.
A court in central Vietnam’s Dak Nong province imposed the sentence on Dinh Dang Dinh under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits “making, storing and/or circulating documents and/or cultural products with contents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Dinh, 49, had written articles on government corruption and an environmentally sensitive bauxite-mining project given to a Chinese developer in Dak Nong.
Dinh’s wife was not given notice about the trial and authorities have pressured the family to keep quiet about his case, a fellow blogger who monitors Dinh’s case told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The family lives in a remote area and they have been intimidated so they are too scared to talk to any media,” the source said.
Dinh, a former police officer and high school teacher, had emerged over the past five years as an online activist promoting freedom of speech and democracy, before being detained in October 2011, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“If the truth be told, the reason that Dinh Dang Dinh [went] on trial today is that he dared to use the Internet to express opinions which are not popular with the government,” HRW’s Asia Deputy Director Phil Robertson said in a statement condemning the trial.
Dinh’s conviction came just after authorities abruptly postponed the trial of three other well known bloggers—Nguyen Van Hai, who is also known as Dieu Cay, Phan Thanh Hai, and Ta Phong Tan—on charges under Article 88. The hearing was expected to take place Tuesday at a court in Ho Chi Minh City.
The three are among at least seven bloggers and activists currently awaiting trial for violating Article 88, in addition to at least 10 “peaceful activists” who have been sentenced this year on charges under the same article, according to Robertson.
“Vietnam’s systematic silencing of critics by locking them behind bars only shows their intolerance for free speech that challenges government policies and priorities, and raises concerns about Vietnam's intentions towards free expression over the Internet," Robertson said.
HRW has accused Vietnam of mounting a sophisticated and sustained attack on online dissent, including by detaining and intimidating anti-government bloggers.
Reporters Without Borders lists Vietnam—which is the process of pushing through a new Decree on Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services and Information—as an “Enemy of the Internet.”
Reported by Gwen Ha for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.