Skip to content

Stand-Up Comedian Settles Defamation Lawsuit Against State-Owned Newspaper

Graphics: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Nguyen Phuc Gia Huy, a Vietnamese stand-up comedian popularly known by his stage name, Dua Leo, announced on his personal Facebook account last Wednesday that his defamation lawsuit [1] against Nhan Dan (The People) newspaper had concluded and that the newspaper had taken down all the alleged defamatory articles about him. In January 2021, Dua Leo filed a civil case against Nhan Dan newspaper for defamation.

Dua Leo is the creator of stand-up comedy shows and content on various topics, including history, science, politics, and mental health. His mission is to use comedy to raise public awareness of tangible problems in Vietnamese society. Given the sensitivity of his work, the comedian has often become a frequent target of defamation from state media and pro-government netizens.

An article [2] published in Nhan Dan, the Vietnamese Communist Party’s (VCP) official mouthpiece, on January 8, 2021, by a writer named Viet Quang, had targeted the comedian and accused him of creating public content to “defy the [Vietnamese] government” and “incite hatred against the country.”

According to Gia Huy, the writer had used fabricated information and unsubstantiated claims to humiliate and accuse him of criminal wrongdoings without any court judgment or going through any legal proceedings.

On January 15, 2021, Dua Leo and his hired law firm sent an urgent request to Nhan Dan demanding that it take down the published article and issue a formal apology to the comedian.

In a response letter on January 18, Nhan Dan’s managing editor answered on behalf of the editorial board. He said that the board “had received the urgent request” and that it would “solve the problem in accordance with the appropriate legal requirements.” The newspaper also requested the law firm “not publish the response letter under any circumstances,” although it is not a classified government document.

On January 23 and 24, 2021, Nhan Dan published another two sequences titled “It’s not too late to turn back,” slamming Dua Leo for his attempt to “distort the truth” [3] and “burnish his personal image” for his decision to file the lawsuit. The article published on January 24 concluded [4] its argument by telling the comedian to “avoid stepping on the wrong path” and threatening him to “stop before it’s too late.”

In the latest update regarding the case on March 15, 2021, Gia Huy’s lawyer sent another request to Nhan Dan raising concerns over its complacency in resolving the problem and demanding the Party mouthpiece remove all the defamatory articles, reprimand the accused writers, and submit an explanation letter to the law firm before March 25, 2021.

Vietnamese stand-up comedian Dua Leo won a defamation lawsuit against the Vietnamese Communist Party-owned Nhan Dan newspaper. Photo: Dua Leo Facebook fanpage/ Nhan Dan website/ RFA.

It was unclear whether Nhan Dan officially responded to the last request before taking down all the defamatory articles on Wednesday. The alleged articles were no longer accessible as of June 2, according to a review by The Vietnamese Magazine. Meanwhile, no apology has been published on Nhan Dan’s website as of this writing; it was also unclear whether the newspaper had formally paid any compensation to the comedian.

In his comments on Facebook, Gia Huy declined to talk to the press or provide more details regarding the lawsuit. According to an RFA reporter, [5] RFA had tried to contact Nhan Dan’s hotline, but the person who answered the phone did not make any comments and asked the reporter to call back later.

The Vietnamese comedian also expressed gratitude to his lawyer, supporters, and patrons on social media after the lawsuit concluded. “This is one of the incidents that affected my spirit the most. Without your practical support, I really have no idea what I would do,” Dua Leo wrote. “[I also want to] thank those who support and help me believe in the legal system.”

Nhan Dan [6] is the official mouthpiece of the VCP. Having published its first edition in 1951, the newspaper’s introduction claims that it represents “the voice of the Party, the State, and the people of Vietnam.”

Since Vietnam does not have an independent judicial system and all judges are Communist Party members, many Vietnamese netizens felt that Dua Leo’s settlement with the Communist Party’s most crucial mouthpiece was unprecedented.

The Vietnamese government often used Article 331 of its 2015 Penal Code to imprison people in cases deemed to be defamation. Dua Leo’s civil lawsuit against Nhan Dan newspaper demonstrates that using the civil court to settle defamation cases may be a better choice to resolve these matters.

However, we will need to wait and see whether this case will become a landmark caselaw in Vietnam concerning defamation in the future.


References:

[1] Nguyen, J. (2021, January 27). Vietnamese Stand-up Comedian Condemns National Newspaper For “Defamation and Humiliation.” The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2021/01/vietnamese-stand-up-comedian-condemns-national-newspaper-for-defamation-and-humiliation/

[2] Quang, V. (2021, January 8). Nấp bóng truyền bá tri thức để kích động, chống phá đất nước. Bao Nhan Dan. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://web.archive.org/web/20210615135944/https://nhandan.vn/binh-luan-phe-phan/nap-bong-truyen-ba-tri-thuc-de-kich-dong-chong-pha-dat-nuoc-631076/

[3] Son, T., & An, H. (2021a, January 23). Nếu biết quay đầu cũng chưa muộn! Bao Nhan Dan. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://web.archive.org/web/20210615121457/https://nhandan.vn/binh-luan-phe-phan/neu-biet-quay-dau-cung-chua-muon--632732/

[4] Son, T., & An, H. (2021b, January 24). Nếu biết quay đầu cũng chưa muộn! (Tiếp theo và hết). Bao Nhan Dan. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://web.archive.org/web/20210827034015/https://nhandan.vn/binh-luan-phe-phan/neu-biet-quay-dau-cung-chua-muon-tiep-theo-va-het--632782/

[5] RFA. (2022, June 1). Nghệ sĩ Dưa Leo: Vụ kiện kết thúc, báo Nhân Dân rút các bài viết. RFA. https://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/news/vietnamnews/dua-leo-s-case-against-nhan-dan-newspaper-settled-06012022082438.html

[6] Nhân Dân. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nh%C3%A2n_D%C3%A2n

Latest