Twelve independent journalists were arrested in 2021 alone, making it the worst year yet for press freedom in Vietnam.
On May 9, the Project 88 organization released the Vietnam human rights report 2021, thereby further supporting the widespread view that the one-party country is “one of the worst countries in the world that persecutes press freedom and free speech.”
According to the organization’s statistics, there were 12 independent media people arrested last year, nearly double the number in 2020 with seven independent media people jailed, and just three people arrested in 2019.
An increase that, according to the organization, is intended to “discard any attempt to promote press freedom” in Vietnam.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia via email, Ms. Jessica Nguyen, the campaign manager of Project 88, added a few more notable information:
“The authorities arrested 12 media professionals in 2021, up from seven in 2020 and three in 2019, in an effort to stamp out efforts to promote press freedom in the country.
We also see an increase in the number of online commenters arrested in 2021, to a total of 15. Notably, this is the first year we’ve seen the authorities arrest activists under Article 331- ‘Abusing democratic freedom,’ more than any other article of the Criminal Code.
There were 17 political prisoners convicted of Article 331, compared with 14 people prosecuted for Article 117 ‘conducting propaganda against the state.’”
One of the most notable arrests last year was that of citizen journalist Le Van Dung in Hanoi. He was prosecuted and imprisoned under the charge of “disseminating anti-state documents” under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
The US-based human rights organization also addressed the trials of many independent journalists taking place in 2021, with harsh sentences imposed on them, including sentences ranging from 11 to 15 years in prison for three leaders of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, including blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy of Radio Free Asia; or a nine-year prison sentence for journalist Pham Doan Trang.
In addition to targeting independent media activists, the Vietnamese government has also been accused of launching a crackdown on civil society organizations working in the environment over the past year.
The most typical is the arrest of famous environmental activist Nguy Thi Khanh, and other activists such as Mai Phan Loi, Dang Dinh Bach, and Bach Hung Duong. All four work for civil society organizations that are legally registered with the state, and are all charged with tax evasion.
These arrests have increased the number of political prisoners in Vietnam, which, according to Project 88’s statistics, is currently 206.
“Political prisoners in Vietnam can be anyone, from journalists, bloggers, authors, environmental activists, teachers, religious leaders, candidates to the National Assembly, or even Facebook online commentators.
They were arrested and imprisoned for their courage to speak out against injustices that plague Vietnam’s civil, cultural, economic, political, and social issues. They were sentenced to prison because the Vietnamese government believes that these dissidents abuse their freedoms, democracy, and propaganda activities to destroy the state, no matter how peaceful they are,” Ms. Jessica Nguyen said.
While Vietnam is campaigning to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term 2023-2035, the above report is a stark reminder of why the country is run by a Communist party. leadership is unfit for this leadership role, according to the Project 88 statement.
In the opposite direction, also on May 9, the Cong an Nhan dan newspaper, the mouthpiece of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, published an article titled “RSF ignores the truth again” by author Chu Xuan Dai Thang, in response to Reporters Without Borders organization ranking Vietnam as one of the worst countries in the world that suppress press freedom.
This article calls the arrested independent journalists, bloggers, and authors “reactionaries, political opportunists” and “abusers of freedom of speech and freedom of the press to oppose Vietnam.”
The author of this article also affirms that no one in Vietnam has been tried and arrested just for expressing opinions or protecting human rights. He assumes that foreign stations such as CNN, BBC, and NHK, … have “easy” access to demonstrate press freedom in Vietnam.