Fugitive Independent Journalist Arrested in Vietnam After Month on the Run

Le Van Dung, also called Le Dung Vova, had reported online about corruption, land disputes, and other social issues deemed politically sensitive by authorities.
2021-07-01
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Vietnamese independent journalist Le Van Dung is shown in an undated photo.
Facebook / Le Van Dung

An independent Vietnamese journalist hunted by police for online writings called “anti-State” by authorities has been arrested after evading capture for more than a month, RFA has learned.

Le Van Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova, was taken into custody on Thursday by Hanoi police, state media reports said on July 1, adding that Dung had not resisted arrest and had shown a “cooperative attitude” when taken by police.

Speaking to RFA, Dung’s wife Bui Thi Hue confirmed news of Dung’s arrest, saying she had been informed of his capture by an acquaintance.

“I received the news from someone I know that my husband was arrested this morning,” Hue said. “They only told me about the arrest, though, and did not say they had seen it happen with their own eyes. I am just saying what I was told.”

Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova—owner of the Facebook-based online CHTV news channel—was away from home when police tried on May 25 to place him under arrest on charges under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for reporting on corruption, land disputes, and other issues deemed politically sensitive by authorities.

Unable to arrest Dung, police left instead with a laptop computer and two mobile phones belonging to his wife Bui Thi Hue, Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on May 25. Vietnamese authorities later issued a special warrant calling for Dung’s arrest, placing notices in major media outlets around the country.

Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code imposes penalties for “creating, storing, and disseminating  information, documents, items, and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and is frequently used by authorities to stifle peaceful critics of the country’s one-party communist state.

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 Richard Finney.

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