Vietnamese Facebook User Jailed For One Year For ‘Offending’ Officials

2021-01-07
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Vietnamese Facebook User Jailed For One Year For ‘Offending’ Officials Nguyen Van Nanh is shown on trial in Dong Nai province for criticizing local authorities in Facebook postings, Jan. 7, 2021.
State Media

A court in southern Vietnam’s Dong Nai province on Thursday sentenced a Facebook user to a year in jail for “offending” local officials he said had mismanaged local land disputes, according to reports in Vietnamese state media.

Nguyen Van Nhanh was convicted by the People’s Court of Dong Nai’s Trang Bom district for posting videos online between May and June last year that prosecutors said were intended to defame district chairwoman Vu Thi Minh Chau and deputy chairwoman Luong Thi Lan.

After seeing the videos, the two women had denounced Nhanh to local police, leading to his arrest, media sources said.

At his trial, Nanh said his posts had been meant only to raise concerns over what he called the unsatisfactory outcome of the officials’ handling of land disputes in which local householders’ interests had been harmed, and that he had not intended to defame the pair.

However, judges rejected Nanh’s defense and jailed him for a year at the end of his one-day trial.

Also on Thursday, a court in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province fined a Facebook user for postings offending local police, while a woman in Ho Chi Minh City was arrested for running online “scams” after posting videos on her Facebook page criticizing police corruption.

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hong, a resident of Binh Duong’s Dau Tieng district, was fined VND 7.5 million (U.S. $322) for a Dec. 6 Facebook posting accusing local police officers of theft after they stopped her motorbike during a traffic stop.

Hong was fined for “offending the honor and prestige” of the police and was forced to promise not to re-offend, media sources said.

Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy, owner of a Facebook account called Bich Thuy TV showing more than 300,000 “likes” from viewers, was arrested on Thursday by police in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh district and held for investigation into running scams and “seizing assets” under Article 174 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Police provided no details of Thuy’s alleged crimes in their announcement of the arrest.

Thuy had earlier received a two-year and six-month suspended sentence on related charges in 2011 in Dong Nai’s Xuan Loc district, but had also frequently posted videos on Facebook criticizing lawbreaking by local traffic police and promoting charitable work helping disadvantaged families in several areas.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” the Paris-based watchdog 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.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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