Journalists convicted of “abusing democratic rights and freedoms to infringe the interests of the state.”
A Vietnamese court sentenced five journalists to prison terms and banned them from working for three years, state media reported, after they were convicted of spreading anti-state content on a Facebook-based news outlet.
They were found guilty of “abusing democratic rights and freedoms to infringe the interests of the state” in a two-day trial in the southern city of Can Tho, the Vietnam state news agency (VNA) said on Thursday.
The journalists set up a news outlet called Bao Sach (Clean Daily) on Facebook, which, according to the indictment cited by VNA, had content that distorted information and defamed the government.
“The acts committed by the accused also caused confusion, mistrust among the people,” he said.
Vietnamese authorities regularly detain social media users for posting “anti-state” content.
Truong Chau Huu Danh, a former reporter and leader of the group, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, while the other defendants received jail terms of between two and three years, VNA said.
The five will be banned from journalism for three years after they are released from prison, VNA reported.
New York-based Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said Vietnam should not treat the media as “enemies of the state.”
“Sending more citizen journalists to jail will not stop people from complaining or demanding reforms in Vietnam,” Robertson said.
“The government must recognize that citizen journalists and independent media are allies of good governance.”