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Free speech in Vietnam: Hanoi’s People’s Court must drop all charges against journalist Nguyen Lan Thang

Update: 14 April, 2023 — In a huge blow to freedom of expression, Nguyen Lan Thang has been sentenced to six years in prison.

Access Now urges Vietnamese authorities to release and drop all charges against Nguyen, and uphold and protect media freedom in the country.

12 April, 2023 Freedom of expression must be upheld, and Vietnam’s authorities must immediately release independent journalist and blogger, Nguyen Lan Thang.

Access Now joins other human rights organizations in an open letter to President Vo Van Thuong of Vietnam calling on authorities to ensure all charges against Nguyen Lan Thang are dropped at today’s closed-door trial at the Hanoi’s People’s Court, Nguyen faces a harsh potential 12-year sentence for merely exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association online.

For years, the Vietnamese state has desperately sought to censor any online content that does not toe the party line, to aggressively quash dissent offline. Nguyen’s case is the latest example of how these arcane methods of intimidation not only violate international law, but simply do not work. All charges against him must be immediately dropped. Nguyen and other journalists and activists have been harassed, assaulted, interrogated, ill-treated and subject to serious rights violations. Yet, they continue because they want something better for their country. They pave the future, and the state should start listening to them. Dhevy Sivaprakasam, Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now

Nguyen Lan Thang was arrested in July 2022 and held in incommunicado detention for more than seven months, before he first met his lawyer in February 2023. He has been charged with “making, storing, distributing or disseminating” online content deemed “against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code — a provision often abused by authorities to persecute independent reporting. Nguyen was arrested on July 5, following more than 130 blog entries he wrote for Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese service. For more than a  decade, he had been actively advocating on land rights and human rights concerns.

Alongside calling for legal harassment of Nguyen to cease and for his release, the joint letter highlights the urgent need for his rights to fair trial to be respected, and calls on the Vietnamese authorities and courts to comply with their obligations under international human rights law — especially in light of Vietnam’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council.

Read the full letter.