Zing News, a popular Vietnamese online magazine owned by one of Vietnam’s foremost digital organizations VNG Corporation, announced Thursday that it will be suspending publications for three months starting on July 14. This comes after an investigation by the inspector of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
Zing News stated that it will focus on rectifying its shortcomings in aligning its platform with the provisions stipulated in Decision No. 62/QD-TTg. Decision No. 62/QD-TTg represents the country’s development and management plan for its press and will be in effect until 2025.
This is not the first time that the Vietnamese government has imposed harsh sentences on news platforms or their personnel. In 2021, Vietnam sentenced journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang to nine years in prison. Amnesty International condemned this decision, stating that:
It is outrageous that the Vietnamese authorities are convicting Pham Doan Trang, a courageous journalist and human rights defender, who has for years fought for a just, inclusive, and rights-respected Viet Nam. Her work should be celebrated and protected, not punished and criminalized … The treatment of Pham Doan Trang – encompassing harassment, surveillance, threats, torture and bogus prosecutions – is cruelly emblematic of the Vietnamese authorities’ repression of peaceful human rights activism across the country.
In addition, Vietnamese activist Tran Van Bang was sentenced to eight years in prison for “spreading anti-government propaganda.” The court convicted him for violating Article 117 of the Penal Code in criticizing the government and convicted him of “making, storing, distributing or propagating information, documents and materials […] aimed at opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Vietnam to drop Tran Van Bang’s charges and release him, describing Article 117 of the Penal Code as a “draconian legal provision.” HRW also stated that “Vietnam’s leaders show their weaknesses, not their strength, by arresting, detaining, and prosecuting anyone who expresses critical views about the government on the internet … Tran Van Bang should not face punishment simply for exercising the basic right to freedom of expression.”
In January, HRW found that, “The Vietnamese government currently incarcerates more than 160 people for peacefully exercising their basic civil and political rights.” In 2021, the UN also expressed deep concern over Vietnam’s ongoing media crackdown.