Defamation / Reputation, Hate Speech, Political Expression
Awan v. Levant
On Appeal Contracts Expression
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The People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province in Vietnam sentenced the blogger activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known famously as Mẹ Nấm (“Mother Mushroom”), to 10 years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state” in respect of content appearing on her Facebook blogposts in which she wrote about human rights and environmental issues. The trial was not open to the public and no official documents are currently available that may reveal the Court’s reasoning. However, the charge was brought under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code which is frequently used to silence activists and critics of the government and has raised concern among human rights groups and other champions of the right to freedom of expression.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and notes that the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It should also be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about the case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as any official source becomes available.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quyn is a Vietnamese activist, who is known by her pen name of “Mẹ Nấm” or Mother Mushroom. Active both online and offline, she raises awareness of of social injustice primarily on human rights and environmental issues . She has contributed blog posts on her Facebook account since 2006 and also hosts and participates in rallies demanding open government and environmental actions as well as campaigning for the release of political prisoners in Vietnam such as Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Ngoc Gia, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and Ngyuen Huu Vinh (or Anh Ba Sam).
Her continuing activism has made her a target and she has been subjected to arbitrarily detention and assault by authorities many times prior to the current case. She also co-founded the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, one of the independent writers’ associations in the country. Nhu Quynh was arrested October 10, 2016 while she visited a fellow activist in prison in Nha Trang and was charged under Article 88 of the country’s criminal code. It was also reported that she was held incommunicado and only met with her lawyer nine days before the trial. Nhu Quyn did not plead guilty to the charges and insisted that she had not committed any crime and was exercising her right to freedom of expression.
Article 88 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code on “Conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” stipulates as follows;
a) Propagating against, distorting and/or defaming the people’s administration;
b) Propagating psychological warfare and spreading fabricated news in order to foment confusion among people;
c) Making, storing and/or circulating documents and /or cultural products with contents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
2. In the case of committing less serious crimes, the offenders shall be sentenced to between ten and twenty years of imprisonment.
According to reports, the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province sentenced Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynhshe to 10 years in prison in a trial held behind closed doors on June 29, 2017. She was sentenced for “harming national unity, eroding the public’s trust in the government, and threatening national security.” The conviction relates to the content on 18 Facebook posts and the interviews she gave to foreign media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. The trial was not open to the public which has raised concern as to whether it was a fair trial.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision contracts freedom of expression by imprisoning the defendant for exercising her right to freedom of expression
The crackdown on bloggers and activists is common in Vietnam where bloggers and activists are reported to be physically assaulted, criminally charged for their activism, and forced into exile.
Article 88 of the Criminal Code is widely used in Vietnam to sentence activists and government critics to imprisonment and is considered by human rights groups to threaten freedom of expression and silence dissent. Vietnam ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1982 which guarantees the right to freedom of expression under Article 19. However, this case and others suggest that Vietnam is not following the international standards set out in the ICCPR.
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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