The trials are the latest in an ongoing crackdown on dissent ahead of a key ruling party meeting this month.
Three prominent Vietnamese journalists face up to 20 years in prison when they go on trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, accused of spreading propaganda against the state, human rights groups said.
Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan – all prominent members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam – are due to appear in the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City charged with “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items that contain distorted information about the people’s government”.
“These journalists are being persecuted and brought to trial because they have exercised their rights of free speech, free press and freedom of assembly,” representatives of Luat Khoa magazine and The Vietnamese magazine, said in a joint statement.
The arrests are the latest in a continuing crackdown against political dissidents, activists and other independent voices as the ruling Community Party prepares for its National Congress this month.The high-level meeting takes place every five years and dozens of people have been detained, according to human rights groups.
“The Vietnamese government claims to respect democracy, but that’s a lie,” Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement. “Democracy dies without freedom of expression and the press, and the work of independent journalists like these three who dare expose malfeasance and demand reforms to end abuse of power.”
Pham Chi Dung, 54, who has taken part in anti-China demonstrations and led campaigns in support of human rights, was arrested in November 2019 shortly after signing a joint letter urging the European Union to delay the approval of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement until Vietnam improved its human rights record. The letter was published in Voice of America website.
69-year-old former army veteran Nguyen Tuong Thuy was known for his work to help political prisoners and land rights defenders. He was arrested in May 2020 and his family say that during interrogation he smashed his mobile phone on the floor rather than reveal the password to police.
Le Huu Minh Tuan, 31, wrote under the pen name of Le Tuan on topics including the Hong Kong protests and civil society in Russia and was arrested in June 2020.