After nearly two years in pre-trial detention, Ngo Van Dung was finally tried and sentenced by a court in Ho Chi Minh City on 31 July to five years in prison followed by two years on probation on a charge of “disturbing security” under article 118 of Vietnam’s 2015 penal code. He has been held ever since his arrest on 4 September 2018.
He and the seven other people tried and convicted with him were accused of plotting to disrupt security by promoting protests. In reality, they were just members of the Hien Phap (Constitution) Group, a network of journalists and activists calling for implementation of article 25 of Vietnam’s constitution, which proclaims press freedom.
“Ngo Van Dung’s only crime was to draw attention to the current Communist Party leadership’s contempt for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s constitution,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This five-year jail sentence on the basis of completely spurious allegations has again demonstrated the shoddiness of Vietnamese justice. Dung has no place behind bars and must be released.”
Before his arrest in September 2018, Dung was above all known for covering protests and unrest. He was arrested for the first time in March 2018 in Dak Lak province, where he is from, after covering a demonstration by schoolteachers who had been unfairly dismissed.
Vietnam has been near the bottom of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for years and is currently ranked 175th out of 180 countries.