Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014, 09:28 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2011 - Vietnam

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2011
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2011 - Vietnam, 8 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f0420a51.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2011

Vietnam: 9

Nguyen Van Hai (Nguyen Hoang Hai), freelance
Imprisoned: April 19, 2008

Nguyen Van Hai was arrested and held without charge for five months, according to news reports. A closed court convicted him of tax evasion on September 10, 2008.

Hai, who also goes by the name Nguyen Hoang Hai, was an outspoken commentator on his political blog Dieu Cay (The Peasant's Pipe). He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for failing to pay 10 years of taxes on the part of a building he had rented to an optical shop. International news reports quoted his lawyer as saying the taxes should have been paid by the tenant, according to the rental agreement.

Several of Hai's blog entries had touched on politically sensitive issues. He had reported on national protests against China, which disputed Vietnam's claim to sovereignty over the nearby Spratly and Paracel islands. He also called for demonstrations against the Beijing Olympic torch relay, which was to pass through Ho Chi Minh City, according to the website of Viet Tan, an exiled pro-democracy organization.

In April 2009, Hai was transferred to the southern Cai Tau Prison, several hours from his home in Ho Chi Minh City, and was denied family visits, according to Viet Tan and international human rights groups. He was scheduled for release after serving his sentence on October 20, 2010, but authorities continued to detain him on the grounds that he was still under investigation.

According to the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam, his family filed 12 different formal requests, petitions, and appeals for visitation in 2011, none of which the authorities acknowledged. Canadian Embassy officials were also refused permission to visit Hai in prison, according to the network.

Pham Thanh Nghien, freelance
Imprisoned: September 13, 2008

A Haiphong city court sentenced online writer Pham Thanh Nghien on January 29, 2010, to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of spreading antistate propaganda. She was first arrested when more than 20 police officers raided her home on September 13, 2008, during a government crackdown on dissidents. She was originally charged with staging a protest at her home, erecting banners protesting government policy in a maritime dispute involving China, and posting the images on the Internet.

State prosecutors dropped those initial charges and instead singled out an online article Nghien had written for foreign media in which she criticized public officials for siphoning off compensation funds intended for survivors of fishermen killed by Chinese maritime patrols in 2007, according to international news reports.

Nghien was also accused of criticizing the government in interviews with Western media outlets, including the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia. Her half-day trial was closed to foreign media and diplomats, news reports said. She was held in solitary confinement until her sentencing in January 2010.

On July 4, 2008, before her arrest, Nghien was severely beaten by four plainclothes police officers who threatened her and her family if she continued her outspoken criticism of government policies, according to Front Line, a human rights group. Nghien wrote several online articles in promotion of human rights, democracy, and better treatment of landless peasants, according to international news reports. She was being held at Thanh Liet Detention Center in Hanoi.

Pham Minh Hoang (Phan Kien Quoc), freelance
Imprisoned: August 13, 2010

Pham Minh Hoang, a university mathematics professor and political blogger associated with the exiled Viet Tan pro-democracy party, was first arrested in Ho Chi Minh City and charged under Article 79 of the penal code for activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

On August 10, 2011, Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court sentenced him to three years in prison and another three years of house arrest for "activities aimed at overthrowing the government," according to local and international news reports. The prison term was later reduced on appeal to 17 months, according to Viet Tan.

The national security-related charges referred to 33 articles written under Hoang's penname, Phan Kien Quoc, according to news reports. The entries focused on corruption, environmental degradation, and perceived government failures to protect the country's territorial sovereignty from Chinese intervention, according to Viet Tan. The journalist was also convicted on charges of having membership in Viet Tan, an exile-run, pro-democracy party.

The courts ruled that the year Hoang spent in pre-trial detention at the Ministry of Public Security's Detainment Center in Saigon District 1 would count against his sentence.

Phan Thanh Hai (Anh Ba Saigon), freelance
Imprisoned: October 18, 2010

Phan Thanh Hai, a political blogger who wrote under the penname Anh Ba Saigon, was first taken into custody on a provisional four-month detention while authorities conducted further investigation. He was held without formal charge throughout 2011.

Police raided his Ho Chi Minh City home, seizing computers, documents, and articles he had downloaded from the Internet, Agence France-Presse reported. According to his wife, Nguyen Thi Lien, police said they had evidence that he had written and published "false information" on his blog.

Hai's blog often touched on issues considered sensitive by the Vietnamese authorities, including a scandal at state-run shipbuilder Vinashin, maritime and territorial disputes with China, and a controversial Chinese-supported bauxite mining project in the country's Central Highlands.

On April 23, 2011, his wife and three children were allowed to visit him at Ho Chi Minh City's Phan Dang Luu Detention Center but were not permitted to give him needed medications, according to a BBC report. No trial date had been set when CPJ completed its prison census on December 1, 2011.

Lu Van Bay (Tran Bao Viet), freelance
Imprisoned: March 26, 2011

Lu Van Bay, also known as Tran Bao Viet, was arrested after police raided his house and confiscated his computers and copies of his published articles, according to news reports. On August 22, 2011, he was sentenced by a court in southern Kien Giang province to four years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges of "conducting propaganda against the state," a penal code offense.

The court's judgment cited 10 articles Bay posted on overseas websites – including Dam Chin Viet (Vietnamese Birds), Do Thoa (Dialogue), and To Quoc (Fatherland) – that were critical of Vietnam's one-party system and called for multi-party democracy.

Dang Xuan Dieu, freelance
Ho Duc Hoa, freelance
Imprisoned: July 30, 2011

Dang Xuan Dieu and Ho Duc Hoa, religious activists and contributors to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News, were detained on July 30 at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country's persecuted Catholic minority.

Dieu and Hoa were detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. The two were both also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

Dieu and Hoa were both being held at Hanoi's B14 Detention Center, according to Viet Tan.

Paulus Le Van Son, freelance
Imprisoned: August 3, 2011

Paulus Le Van Son, a blogger and contributor to the news websites Vietnam Redemptorist News and Bao Khong Le (Newspaper Without Lanes), was arrested in front of his home in the capital, Hanoi. News reports, citing an eyewitness, said police knocked him from his motorcycle to the ground, grabbed his arms and legs, and threw him into a waiting police vehicle.

He was detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. Son was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country's persecuted Catholic minority. Bao Khong Le focuses on issues such as corruption and sovereignty conflicts with China. In the months before his arrest, Son posted a number of sensitive entries to his own blog, addressing anti-China protests and territorial disputes with China.

Son had been briefly detained earlier, in April 2011, when he attempted to attend a court hearing for pro-democracy dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu. Son's personal blog covered sensitive political and social issues, including anti-China demonstrations, government harassment of prominent pro-democracy and Catholic Church activists, and violence in schools.

Son was being held at Hanoi's B14 Detention Center, according to news reports.

Nguyen Van Duyet, freelance
Imprisoned: August 7, 2011

Nguyen Van Duyet, a contributor to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News and president of the Association of Catholic Workers, was detained in Vinh city, Nghe An province. Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online publication run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, reports on the plight of the country's persecuted Catholic minority.

He was detained under Article 79 the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Under Vietnamese law, the maximum penalties for violations are life imprisonment or capital punishment. Duyet was also accused of membership in the outlawed, exile-run Viet Tan party.

He was being held at Hanoi's B14 Detention Center, Viet Tan reported.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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