A court in southern Vietnam’s Can Tho City on Thursday sentenced a Facebook user to two years in prison for posting articles and livestream videos criticizing Vietnam’s communist government online, family members and media sources said.
Le Thi Binh, born in 1976, was arrested in December and charged with “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. Her elder brother, Le Minh The, had completed a two-year jail term on the same charge in July.
Binh’s lawyer argued at trial for a reduced sentence of 12 months, Binh’s son Nguyen Chi Thanh told RFA after the trial, “But the prosecutor recommended two and a half years, and my mom was finally sentenced to two years in prison.”
Quoting the indictment against her, state media said Binh had used her Facebook page from October 2019 to November 2020 to livestream, post, and share posts “conveying bad and reactionary viewpoints and ideas” aimed at opposing and defaming Vietnam’s Communist Party and party and state leaders.
Binh had also “seriously insulted” Communist Vietnam’s founding leader Ho Chi Minh in her posts and called for a multiparty and pluralistic state to replace the current political regime, state media said.
Binh’s arrest and jailing is only the latest in a continuing series of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities after authorities began last year to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January.
With Vietnam’s media tightly controlled by the country’s ruling Communist Party, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.
Measures now taken against them include jailings under vague charges in the criminal code and assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year’s.
Also ranked low in this year’s survey were Vietnam’s neighbors Laos at 172, Cambodia at 144, and Myanmar, whose ranking at 140 represents a one-point drop from last year’s score, RSF said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.