On June 11, 2020, Member of Canadian Parliament Judy A. Sgro wrote a letter to the Ambassador of Canada to Vietnam Deborah Paul calling for the release of independent journalists currently detained in prison.
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June 11, 2020
Ambassador of Canada to Vietnam
Canada Embassy in Hanoi
31 Hung Vuong St., Ba Dinh District
With the world focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few weeks, the Vietnamese government has increased efforts to suppress freedom of information and speech by continuing to detain independent journalists. Starting with the arrest of independent journalist Pham Chi Dung in November 2019, Vietnamese authorities have since arrested three more prominent bloggers: Mr. Tran Duc Thach (April 23, 2020), Mr. Pham Thanh (May 21, 2020), and Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy (May 23, 2020).
Pham Chi Dung is the founder of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam. Dung was charged with violating Article 117 of the 2015 penal code (creating, storing, and spreading anti-state information and material). This charge is often used to stifle dissenting voices. Dung was arrested after calling on the European Parliament not to ratify the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement because of its poor human rights record. After six months in detention, he has not yet been brought to trial.
Nguyen Tuong Thuy became the President of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam after Pham Chi Dung was arrested. In 2014, Nguyen Tuong Thuy spoke about press freedom in Vietnam at a US Congressional briefing in Washington, DC.
Tran Duc Thach is a writer who spent three years in prison, from 2008 to 2011. He is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a human rights organization that has been severely repressed and targeted by the Vietnamese government for many years.
Pham Chi Thanh is a prominent writer, known for his blog Bà Đầm Xòe [Statue of Liberty]. In 2019, Thanh published a book criticizing the Vietnamese government and the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong. In particular, Pham Chi Thanh criticized concessions the Vietnamese authorities made with China and he brought to light the internal conflicts within the Vietnamese Communist Party.
Ahead of the 13th Party Congress in January 2021, the Vietnamese government is actively silencing criticism. This is a common practice that has occurred for several decades. The Vietnamese government needs to change this “tradition” and start releasing prisoners of conscience, independent journalists, and abolishing vague laws in the Penal Code, such as Article 109 (attempt to overthrow the state), and Article 117 (propaganda against the state).
I seek your assistance in this matter to urge for the release of these individuals whose only crimes are to call for transparency within the government, and to seek the advancement of human rights in Vietnam.
Hon. Judy A. Sgro, MP
Humber River-Black Creek
A PDF version of the letter can be viewed here.