Human rights journalist in Vietnam sentenced to 9 years imprisonment for ‘conducting propaganda’

Pham Doan Trang

A renowned journalist dubbed the “leading voice for human rights” in Vietnam by Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah was recently sentenced to nine years in prison. 

The trial: On Tuesday, Hanoi People’s Court judges found the 43-year-old, award-winning Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang guilty of “conducting propaganda against the state,” CNN reported. 

  • Trang, who wrote about alleged human rights abuses in Vietnam, has been detained since she was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Oct. 7, 2020. 
  • According to Amnesty International, she faced charges under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which criminalizes “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.” 
  • Trang’s indictment partially focused on a 2016 report she covered about the deteriorating state of Vietnam’s marine life, which she published with Green Trees, and a 2017 report about religious freedom in the country, according to the Washington Post.
  • She was also accused of maligning the Vietnamese government after she spoke with foreign media platforms.
  • Trang’s five-member legal team said their client originally entered a non-guilty plea, noting that they would likely appeal the verdict.

The verdict: During the trial, which gained international attention from human rights groups, authorities shut down main roads to prevent access to the Hanoi courthouse, with riot police and plainclothes agents scattered around the area. 

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  • Trang’s lawyers found the sentence to be extreme, with attorney Le Van Luan pointing out that it is “heavier than what prosecutors recommended. That’s unusual.”
  • According to attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, their client received a sentence “close to the maximum term for such activities,” reported Reuters.
  • Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phil Robertson also criticized the verdict, noting that Trang’s imprisonment “is a searing indictment of everything that is wrong with authoritarian Vietnam today.” 
  • U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that Trang “did nothing more than peacefully express her opinions.”
  • In October, 28 human rights groups released a joint statement calling for “the immediate and unconditional release” of the journalist.
  • “We denounce this unacceptable denial of her rights to a fair trial and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and call for an immediate end to her arbitrary detention, and for all charges against her to be dropped,” the statement read.

Featured Image via The 88 Project

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