The IPI global network strongly condemns the sentencing of Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam to three-and-a-half years in prison this week for criticizing the government’s handling of a corruption case. We urge authorities to release Nam and all other imprisoned journalists in the country, and to immediately cease their campaign of intimidation and harassment of the press.
Nam was arrested a year ago, in April 2021, after posting a comment on Facebook in which he criticized the government’s handling of a corruption case. As a reporter with the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper, Nam had discovered evidence of bribery involving employees of the water department. He disclosed this information to a government agency, which in turn investigated the case. The government agency then charged three employees with abuse of power but 14 others were never charged, according to reports.
After Nam criticized the investigation on Facebook, he was arrested for violating Article 331 of Vietnam’s penal code, which prohibits “abuses of democratic freedoms” in a way that has a “negative impact on social security, order or safety” – a crime punishable with between two to seven years in prison.
On April 5, a court in Ho Chi Minh City found Nam guilty of violating Article 331, after agreeing with prosecutors that Nam’s actions “negatively affected” the social order, and sentenced him to three-and-a-half years in prison.
He pleaded not guilty and in court denied the accusation that his comment on Facebook had a negative impact on society in violation of the penal code. Nam told the court that “Facebook is a tool to inform the public”, and that he “wrote articles with evidence, so it cannot be said that I lied or fabricated things,” according to reports.
“The sentencing of Nguyen Hoai Nam is yet another sign of the Vietnamese regime’s tight control over the press and its intolerance of any journalism that scrutinizes the actions of power holders”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “We continue to call on the government to cease its intimidation and harassment of the press and to release all imprisoned journalists in the country.”
Although press freedom is guaranteed in Vietnam’s Constitution, the regime frequently applies the criminal code and other laws to punish and harass journalists and political opponents for criticizing the government.
A week ago, IPI called on Vietnamese authorities to release all journalists currently being imprisoned after journalist Le Van Dung was sentenced to five years in prison for spreading anti-state propaganda under Article 117 of the criminal code, which prohibits anyone from “creating, storing, or sharing” materials that oppose the state, a crime punishable with between 5 and 12 years in prison.