Vietnamese court upholds jail terms for couple over YouTube channel content

Nguyen Thai Hung and wife charged with 'abusing democratic freedoms' over 'Telling the Truth TV' show.
By RFA Vietnamese
Vietnamese court upholds jail terms for couple over YouTube channel content Nguyen Thai Hung (L) and Vu Thi Kim Hoang (R) in undated photos.

A Vietnamese man who livestreamed YouTube videos deemed critical of the government and leaders and his spouse lost their appeals trial on Wednesday for prison sentences they received for “abusing democratic freedoms.”

In November 2022, a court in Dong Nai province sentenced Nguyen Thai Hung, 50, to a four-year term and his wife, Vu Thi Kim Hoang, 45, to two-and-a-half years for running the “Telling the Truth TV” YouTube channel. 

It had nearly 40,000 followers and earned allegedly “illegal profits” of more than 384 million dong, or U.S.$15,500, from advertisements. 

Dong Nai police arrested the couple in January 2022, though they released Hoang in late April. 

Authorities said Hung livestreamed 21 videos on his YouTube channel from June 2020 until his arrest, during which he spoke badly of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the state, distorted socioeconomic development policies and slandered senior party and government leaders. 

At their earlier trial, in Tan Phu District, police presented evidence from material they said that the pair broadcast on the social media platform addressing a deadly January 2020 police raid over a land dispute in northern Vietnam’s Dong Tam village. 

The couple also broadcast content regarding the management of prisoners and Vietnam’s communist regime and the legal system.

The videos, which generated 19,000-56,000 views each, are no longer available for viewing on YouTube. 

The communist country tightly curbs freedom of expression and enforces stringent controls over online content.

Though the couple did not have legal representation at the first trial, for the appeals trial, Hung was represented by attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, and Hoang by attorney Ngo Thi Hoang Anh. 

'Unfair' outcome

Speaking to Radio Free Asia after the trial, Hoang, who maintains that she had no part in the making or production of the videos, said the outcome was unfair.

“Mr. Hung only exercised his freedom of speech and wanted to make society better, not to oppose or ruin the state,” she said. “The defense attorney had great arguments, stressing that Vietnam has signed international conventions on human rights.” 

Hoang also complained about the upholding of her own sentence on the basis that she supported Hung by taking care of him, providing him with accommodations and letting him use her laptop computer and bank account. 

Hoang’s elder sister, Vu Giang Tien, who had attended the trial, told RFA that attorney Nguyen Van Mieng’s arguments were strong.  

“He said there was not enough evidence to convict [Hung] and that Article 25 of the Constitution states that we [citizens] have freedom of speech following international conventions,” Tien said. 

“Despite whatever the lawyer said, the judging panel still had their own way and made their own decision.”  

After the trial ended, authorities took Hung back to Dong Nai police’s detention facility and allowed Hoang to return home to wait for the court’s decision on judgment implementation.   

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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