Vietnam jails ex-radio journalist, arrests freelancers

HANOI: Vietnam jailed a former radio journalist on Friday on an anti-state charge, state media reported, after several other journalists have been arrested in recent weeks.
The radical administration is moving quickly to suppress dissent and stop criticism, especially those who find an audience on social media platforms.
On Friday, Pham Chi Thanh, a 68-year-old pro-democracy activist fiercely critical of the regime on Facebook, was jailed for five and a half years on charges of “making, accumulating, disseminating and disseminating information and documents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, “according to the Vietnamese state news agency.
The Vietnamese news agency cited the Hanoi court verdict that Thanh, the former editor of the state-controlled radio station Voice of Vietnam, broadcast on his Facebook account “distorted information that sparked social concerns “and granted interviews to foreign media.
Daniel Bastard of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that the conviction of Pham Chi Thanh “speaks volumes about the Vietnamese authorities’ flagrant disregard for the rule of law and the country’s constitution”.
“Pham Chi Thanh embodies the struggle of Vietnamese citizens for independent and truthful information,” he said.
Thanh is the “latest victim of the much harsher line adopted by the government in five years,” he added.
Vietnamese police also arrested Le Van Dung, 51, also known as Dung Vova, last month on the same charge as Thanh. Dung had been on the run for over a month before the arrest.
As a freelance writer, Dung had posted live reports on Facebook and Youtube discussing the country’s socio-economic and political situation, including its relations with neighboring China.
State media also reported on the recent arrests of at least four independent journalists for “abusing democratic freedoms in order to harm the interests of the state”.
The four members of the “Clean Journalism” group (an investigative reporting team) had openly discussed several controversial issues, including the removal of names from some death row inmates and a land dispute in Dong Tam commune near Hanoi.
Vietnam bans all independent media and is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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