Vietnamese journalist and activist Nguyen Lan Thang Wednesday goes to trial on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” after being arrested July 5, 2022 for his reporting on protests and human rights violations. Should he be found guilty, Nguyen faces up to 12 years in prison.
Nguyen, who contributed to US government-funded Radio Free Asia as well as his own personal YouTube and Facebook pages, was charged in relation to 12 “anti-state” videos Nguyen had posted on his social media accounts. Nguyen also had a long history of peaceful activism, protesting against the expansion of Chinese influence, land confiscation, and the erosion of civil liberties in Vietnam. Vietnamese authorities previously subjected Nguyen to arbitrary detentions, travel bans and harassment prior to this incident.
Vietnamese authorities arrested Nguyen under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code, which prohibits “making, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the State.” Opponents of Article 117 argue that it has been used to suppress legitimate dissent and has resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of journalists, bloggers and activists.
Nguyen’s trial will be held in a closed-court session, with only his wife and lawyer able to attend. Authorities only permitted Nguyen to meet with his lawyer on February 16, over seven months after his initial detention.
Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns Ming Yu Hah declared:
Nguyen Lan Thang’s trial shows that the Vietnamese authorities are silencing those producing content deemed ‘unfavourable’ as they seek to ensure subservience to the state. His lack of adequate access to a lawyer and family visits are a further stain on a deeply flawed and unfair trial.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called on Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen, and to drop all pending charges against him. Ten human rights organizations sent an open letter to Vietnamese officials on Tuesday, calling for “the right to fair trial [to be] respected and that members of the public, the press, the United Nations, and the diplomatic community be allowed to monitor the proceedings.”