Bangkok, January 17, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison of French-Vietnamese blogger Pham Minh Hoang and calls on Vietnam's Communist Party-led government to remove the continuing restrictions on him and free the nine other journalists still behind bars.
Hoang, a university mathematics professor and political blogger associated with the exiled Viet Tan pro-democracy party, was released from prison on Friday after serving 17 months of a three-year prison sentence on national security-related charges. A court ruled last November to reduce his prison sentence due to his cooperation with authorities and his renunciation of any association with Viet Tan, according to news reports. The journalist is now required to serve an additional three years of house arrest, according to his lawyer, Tran Vu Hai, news reports said.
"We welcome Pham Minh Hoang's release, but reiterate that he never should have been imprisoned in the first place," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "Even with Hoang's release, Vietnam is still among the worst jailers of journalists in the world."
Hoang was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2010 and charged under Article 79 of the penal code for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Prosecutors cited 33 articles written under the journalist's penname, Phan Kien Quoc, during his trial. The articles criticized the country's one-party Communist system by focusing on government corruption, environmental degradation, and the government's perceived failure to protect the sovereignty of national territory from Chinese intervention.
On January 2, Vietnamese authorities arrested and detained Nguyen Van Khuong, an investigative reporter with the Vietnamese-language daily Tuoi Tre, on charges of giving bribes while reporting undercover on a series of stories on police corruption. Khuong has remained in detention while government authorities investigate the charges against him.
CPJ research shows that at least three other political bloggers--Nguyen Van Hai, Pham Thanh Nghien, and Phan Thanh Ha--are currently imprisoned in Vietnam. An executive decree issued last January gave authorities greater powers to penalize journalists, editors, and bloggers who report on issues deemed sensitive to national security.