Vietnam sentences Facebook page administrator to 8 years

The “Diary of Patriots” page contained news and information deemed anti-state.
By RFA Vietnamese Service
2024.03.26
Vietnam sentences Facebook page administrator to 8 years Nguyen Van Lam, administrator of the Facebook account “The Diary of Patriots,” appears in court in this undated photo.
Tuoi Tre

A court in Vietnam on Tuesday sentenced a man to eight years in prison for managing a Facebook page that shared news and content that authorities said was against the state.

Nguyen Van Lam, 33, was the administrator of “The Diary of Patriots,” a page on Meta’s social media platform that authorities said defamed and smeared Vietnam's senior leaders.

Lam was convicted in the Tien Giang People’s Court in southern Vietnam of “making, storing, disseminating, propagandizing anti-state information and materials” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which is criticized by rights groups as being an intentionally vague law that allows Hanoi to stifle dissent.

According to the indictment, Lam, a native of Vinh Hoa commune, Vinh Loc district in Thanh Hoa province, regularly visited websites and social media pages to read posts and articles with bad content and therefore developed a “hostile and anti-state” attitude. 

He used the Facebook account “Nguyễn Lâm” to put up 19 posts with content distorting and defaming the system of one-party rule in Vietnam, it said..

There are multiple pages on Facebook with the same name, and Lam may have had connections to more than one of them, state media said. 

One of the “Diary of Patriots” pages had more than 800,000 followers.

The earliest page was created in 2011, at the beginning of widespread demonstrations against China’s claims and aggressiveness in the South China Sea. Though Vietnam upholds its own claims, it often stifles anti-China dissent.

Restricting freedom of speech 

The arrest was aimed at punishing those who had “created a forum for people to discuss and share multifaceted information in the spirit of freedom of speech,” said a member of that page who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“I am against the punishments against those who exercise human rights and promote human rights values,” he told RFA Vietnamese in a text message, saying that he did not know Lam personally.

He called on Vietnamese authorities to adopt the world’s “civilized standards,” and said that the international community has a responsibility not to ignore Vietnam’s crackdowns on activists while supporting Hanoi’s bid to stay on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

State media reports did not include information about Lam’s arrest.

RFA attempted to find details about his arrest by contacting the Tien Giang provincial police department, but staff who answered the phone refused to respond to queries.

Lam did nothing criminal by managing pages on social media, said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

“He should be immediately and unconditionally released,” Robertson said. “Sadly, it looks like Vietnam’s leaders will not stop this crackdown until they have imprisoned every last activist in the country.”

In July 2023, Ho Chi Minh City police arrested Phan Tat Thanh, who was allegedly the former administrator of “The Diary of Patriots” page, charging him with “propaganda against the state” under Article 117.

RFA’s database shows that since January 2024, the Vietnamese government has arrested six activists on the same charges and sentenced one to six years in prison for the same accusation.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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