Media and journalism issues

Vietnam upholds 9-year jail term for dissident journalist

Reuters
Vietnam upholds 9-year jail term for dissident journalist

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Pham Doan Trang, who widely published material on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam, was convicted in December of conducting propaganda against the state

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese court on Thursday, August 25, upheld a nine-year prison term for a journalist and prominent dissident convicted of anti-state activities, her lawyers and state media said.

The Hanoi People’s High Court rejected the appeals by Pham Doan Trang, 44, at a tightly controlled trial in the capital city.

Trang, who widely published material on human rights and alleged police brutality in Vietnam, was convicted in December of conducting propaganda against the state.

“Trang argued that the initial trial in December didn’t follow domestic legal procedures and international treaty…but the court insisted that there was no foundation to accept her appeals,” her lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said.

Despite sweeping economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism.

Manh said Trang’s family members and diplomats in Hanoi were barred from attending her appeals trial.

The European Union on Thursday called the charges Trang was convicted on “vague,” adding that the arrests and convictions of peaceful activists and journalists are in direct contradiction to international human rights law.

“The European Union continues to call on the Vietnamese authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained,” European Commission foreign affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali said.

In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington announced Trang as winner of an International Women of Courage prize at a ceremony attended by first lady Jill Biden. Vietnam objected to the prize granting.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the upheld conviction and nine-year prison sentence of renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement following the ruling.

“We note reports of Trang’s declining health and urge Vietnam to ensure adequate medical care and to allow access to Trang to assess her medical condition,” Price said.

The court on Tuesday, August 23, said Trang was not innocent, though she had pleaded not guilty, according to state media.

“The jury held that Pham Doan Trang’s activities were dangerous for the society,” official Vietnam News Agency reported.

Earlier this month, the court also upheld lengthy prison terms against at least three other activists. – Rappler.com

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