Vietnamese Journalist Gets Eight Years for ‘Anti-State’ Writings

Tran Thi Tuyet had published more than 25 stories and videos on Facebook and YouTube prior to her August 2020 arrest.
2021-04-23
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Vietnamese Journalist Gets Eight Years for ‘Anti-State’ Writings Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu stands trial April 23, 2021 at the People's Court in Phu Yen province, Vietnam.
congluan.vn

A court in Vietnam sentenced a journalist to eight years Friday for writing anti-state stories and sharing them on social media, her lawyer told RFA.

The People’s Court in the south-central coastal province of Phu Yen convicted Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu of violating article 117 of the Vietnamese penal code for “creating, storing and disseminating information and materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

The trial lasted three hours, which is quite fast. The prosecution carried a sentence range of five to 12 years and I think the 8-years is pretty harsh,” Nguyen Kha Thanh, Dieu’s lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. 

“Ms. Dieu had a clean criminal record. This is her first offense,” Thanh said.

A former employee of a state-run newspaper, Dieu was arrested in August 2020, for managing a Facebook profile called “Tuyết Babel” and a YouTube account under the name “Tuyết Diệu Trần." According to the Vietnam News Agency, which cited the indictment, Dieu had used the websites to disseminate 25 news stories and nine videos deemed to be against the state.

She also stored seven other anti-state stories on her laptop and had published online written materials in support of democracy activist Nguyen Viet Dung, currently serving a six-year sentence for disseminating anti-state materials, including photos of himself in military garb in front of the flag of South Vietnam, defeated when the communist North unified the country in 1975.

After Dieu’s arrest, she was not allowed to contact anyone for months and could not meet her lawyer until November 2020.

“She pleaded innocent, saying that there were no victims of what she did. She did not accept the accusations as the trial failed to find a person harmed by her actions,” said the lawyer.

“But the court said her actions caused harm to the nation, a common tactic that allows them to not have to show any specific harmed individuals,” he said.

Thanh said as a regular citizen, Dieu’s writings were not done with the intention of opposing the government, and an individual’s writings are not strong enough to topple an entire government.

“In my view what she was doing was not in opposition to the authorities. I guess Ms. Dieu wrote those things because she was upset or something. She should have been charged with an administrative violation or for insulting an organization,” Thanh said.

Harsh forms of persecution

With Vietnam’s media all following Communist Party orders, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher forms of persecution,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.

Measures taken against them now include assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year.

“To justify jailing them, the Party resorts to the criminal codes, especially three articles under which ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the government,’ ‘anti-state propaganda’ and ‘abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state’ are punishable by long prison terms,” the rights group said.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. But arrests continue in 2021.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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