Content Regulation / Censorship, National Security
The Sunday Times v. United Kingdom (No. 2)
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Closed Contracts Expression
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Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, were sentenced to jail for five and three years respectively on March 23, 2016, for writing blog posts. The People’s Court in Hanoi found them guilty of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code.
Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, better known as Ahn Ba Sam, started a blog called “Ba Sam” in 2007 with the purpose of informing his audience through articles and commentaries on Vietnamese political, social, economic, and cultural issues. The blog also published translations of articles from English and French as well as excerpts from books.
He and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, were arrested in May 2014. It was reported that Ba Sam had attracted several million readers inside and outside Vietnam. According to the indictment, Vinh also found two other blogs, Dan Quyen (which means “Citizens’ Rights” in English) and Chep Su Viet (“Writing Vietnamese History”) in 2013 and 2014 respectively. There were 12 articles published on Dan Quyen and 12 more on Chep Su Viet which were noted on the indictment to have “untruthful and baseless content; distort the lines and policies of the Party and the law of the State; vilify a number of individuals and affect the prestige of offices and organizations; present a one-side and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting the people’s confidence in the leadership of the Party, the Government, the National Assembly, and the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” It was stated in the indictment that both political blogs cumulatively boasted more than 3.7 million page views.
Both individuals were charged under Artcile 258(2) of the Penal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms.” Under this charge, authorities are allowed to detain suspects for up to six months and an additional maximum of 90 days following indictment for trial preparation. However, the two had been detained ever since they were arrested until they were put on a one-day trial on March 23, 2016. That same day, the Hanoi Court sentenced Vinh to five years in prison and his assistant three years in prison.
The presiding judge, Nguyen Van Pho, said that the writings in the blogs “present a one-sided and pessimistic view, causing anxiety and worry, and affecting the people’s confidence” in the party and government, and “go against the interests of the nation.”
The case is viewed to be different from other cases where bloggers are prosecuted because of their blog posts because of Vinh’s distinctive background. He was reported to be a former police officer in the Ministry of Public Security in Hanoi and later a private investigator. His father was a government minister and ambassador to the former Soviet Union.
It was reported that the trial was open to foreign observers and that they were allowed to follow the proceedings via closed circuit TV in a separate room. The case considered to be unfair by rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Both groups have issued reports calling for the release of both individuals.
Even though Vietnam is party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), freedom of expression is severely restricted in the country. Many bloggers face prosecution due to the political content of their blogs, particularly for content that is considered by the government to be anti-government.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts the freedom of expression because the defendants were sentenced to prison terms as a direct result of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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