VIETNAM: Three bloggers jailed for ‘anti-state propaganda’

RAN 36/12 - 24 September 2012

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is appalled by the lengthy sentences handed down to bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan (f) and Phan Thanh Hai on 24 September 2012. The bloggers were sentenced to twelve, ten and four years in prison respectively for conducting ‘anti-state propaganda’ in their critical articles and blogs. PEN protests their detention in the strongest possible terms, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a signatory.

According to PEN’s information, bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai were charged in early April 2012 with ‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam’ under Article 88 of the Criminal code, for posting articles on the banned website Free Journalists’ Club (Cau Lac Bo Nha Bao Tu Do), which they co-founded, and on their own blogs. Their trial has been repeatedly postponed, and did not comply with international standards of fairness. All three have been held in pre-trial detention for at least a year, in harsh conditions.

Nguyen Van Hai (aka Nguyen Hoang Hai/Dieu Cay), independent journalist and blogger, has been continuously detained since 19 April 2008, after being charged with alleged tax fraud and sentenced on 10 September 2008 to two and a half years-imprisonment. He is widely believed to be targeted for his criticism of Vietnamese government policy. He should have been released on 20 October 2010 on completion of this sentence; however, on 18 October 2010 he was transferred to a Public Security detention camp in Ho Chi Minh city, on new charges based on his online writings for the Free Journalist Network in Viet Nam, published prior to his arrest in 2008. He has been held incommunicado, without access to family visits, letters or medical and food supplies since 18 October 2010. Concerns for his welfare are acute. Nguyen Van Hai is known for his critical internet postings calling for greater democracy and human rights in Vietnam and his participation in protests against Chinese foreign policy.

Lawyer, independent journalist and blogger PHAN Thanh Hai (aka Anh Ba Sai Gon), aged 43, was arrested on 18 October 2010 for posting ‘false information’ on his blog. His blog is known for its social and news reports about Vietnam, including Vietnam’s territorial disputes with China and the controversial issue of bauxite mining. Prior to his arrest, Phan was frequently subject to harassment and interrogation, and his blog was repeatedly hacked. Despite being a qualified lawyer, he has been denied permission to practice by the Ho Chi Minh Bar Association because of his blogging and activism.

TA Phong Tan (f) (aka Cong Ly Va Tu Su), is a blogger for Conglysuthat (Justice & Truth), and former police officer. She was arrested on 5 September 2011. Ta is a popular blogger among dissidents in Vietnam; she has written articles about corruption, abuse of power, confiscation of land, among other issues. Her articles have been published in many mainstream media outlets in Vietnam, including Tuoi Tre (Youth), Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer), Vietnam Net, and the Vietnamese Service of the BBC. On 30 July 2012 her mother died after self-immolating outside government buildings following months of harassment from Public Security officials. For more on her story and the plight of over twenty writers currently detained in Vietnam, see an excellent article in The Guardian by Kamila Shamsie of English PEN.

This appeal is also supported by the Women Writers Committee of PEN International.

Please send appeals:
Protesting the lengthy sentences handed down to bloggers Nguyen Van Hai, Phan Thanh Hai, and Ta Phong Tan in the strongest possible terms;
Expressing alarm at the number of writers and journalists currently detained in Vietnam for the peaceful expression of their views, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Appeals to be sent to:
His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.

For some Vietnamese embassies in the world:

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 31 October 2012. ***

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: