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Vietnam: Appellate Court Upholds Convictions of Bao Sach’s Journalists
On January 26, 2022, the Appellate Court of Can Tho City conducted an appeal hearing in the case of five journalists belonging to Bao Sach (Clean Newspaper), state media reported. Truong Chau Huu Danh, Doan Kien Giang, Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, Nguyen Thanh Nha, and Le The Thang appealed their convictions. In October 2021, Vietnam sentenced them totally to nearly 15 years of imprisonment.
These five Bao Sach’s journalists were prosecuted under Article 331 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. This law code criminalizes activities of “abusing democratic freedom to infringe on the state’s interests and individuals’ legal rights.”
More specifically, these journalists were accused of “abusing the freedom of speech and press to write, post publicly, and distribute unverified, false, and negative information on social media,” state media quoted the indictment in its report.
The international community has repeatedly criticized Article 331 for violating people’s human rights during Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review sessions and the country’s review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
One of Bao Sach’s core founders, Truong Chau Huu Danh, received four years and six months in jail; Doan Kien Giang and Le The Thang received three years in prison, and Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao and Nguyen Thanh Nha each received two years of imprisonment. After finishing their incarceration, they were also banned from practicing journalism, states the verdict.
The Procuracy Office of Can Tho City later also appealed the court’s ban of Bao Sach’s journalism practice. It argued that violators of Article 331 were not subject to additional punishment other than prison sentences.
On January 27, 2022, the Can Tho Court concluded their two-day appeal trial of Bao Sach journalists, upholding the previous sentencing. The court claims that the evidence and related documents presented by Bao Sach’s lawyers and the Procuracy are not strong enough to lower their sentences, state media reported.
In a press statement on October 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of State commented that the United States “is deeply troubled” by the conviction of Bao Sach journalists. It also urged the Vietnamese government “to ensure its actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.”