Vietnamese blogger gets six years in prison for “anti-state propaganda”


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of an outspoken Vietnamese blogger who was sentenced to six years in prison plus two years of probation on a charge of “anti-state propaganda” at the end of a Kafkaesque trial in Hanoi on 12 April.

After nine months in pre-trial detention, Nguyen Lan Thang was finally tried behind closed doors although article 25 of Vietnam’s criminal procedure code says such a trial may be held only in special cases involving state secrets, national traditions, the protection of minors or personal privacy. Only Thang’s wife and lawyers were allowed into the courtroom.

“Vietnam’s communist government has clearly used a trial with no due process guarantees to silence one of its leading critics, shamelessly violating article 25 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom. We call for the blogger Nguyen Lan Thang to be freed at once and for his conviction to be overturned.

RSF's Asia-Pacific desk

A regular contributor to the blog on Radio Free Asia, an independent radio station funded by the US congress, Thang was accused of “defaming the party and state” by posting 12 videos about Vietnamese politics on social media, and by giving interviews to the BBC. He was also accused of possessing banned books, including two written by Pham Doan Trang, a journalist convicted of anti-state propaganda in December 2021.

Arbitrary detention
Hanoi police investigators arrested Thang on 5 July 2022 on an initial charge of “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under article 117 of the criminal code, a notorious catch-all provision used to silence any journalist or blogger who dares to stray from the propaganda line set by the Communist Party’s current leadership.

A fervent human rights defender and critic of all rights violations by the government, Thang was held incommunicado and was not allowed to see his lawyer until 16 February. His requests for access to the prosecution case file and for a pen and paper to prepare his defence were ignored. And his request to be allowed to question an expert from the Hanoi department of information and communication before or during his trial was also unsuccessful.

Frequent government critic
From 2013 to 2022, Thang posted a total of 130 times about Vietnamese social and political issues, including freedom, democracy and human rights. One of his latest posts denounced free speech and human rights violations by the government. He also covered several of the protest movements that have taken place in Vietnam. He had been arrested many in times in the past decade, his home was placed under surveillance and he was banned from leaving the country.

The Vietnamese authorities often target outspoken bloggers and journalists because they are the only source of freely reported news and information in a country where all the media take their orders from the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), which has ruled since 1975. Recent victims include Le Anh Hung, a freelance journalist who was sentenced to five years in prison by a Hanoi court on 30 August 2022.