Rights body urges Vietnam to release top journalist

A global rights body has urged the Vietnamese government to release a prominent journalist detained and held incommunicado under a sweeping law frequently used to crush dissent.

Jun 10, 2024

Vietnamese journalist, blogger, and author Huy Duc was detained by Hanoi police on June 1. (Photo: hrw.org)

HANOI: A global rights body has urged the Vietnamese government to release a prominent journalist detained and held incommunicado under a sweeping law frequently used to crush dissent.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a June 7 statement called for “the immediate and unconditional release” of journalist, blogger, and author Huy Duc.

Hanoi police detained Duc on June 1 and charged him under Article 331 of the Vietnam penal code for “abusing the rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

Duc’s arrest was revealed a week later to his family.

Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW said: “Arresting a journalist for his critical reporting just shows that the Vietnamese government is moving further and further away from democracy and the rule of law.”

She urged international donors and Vietnam’s trade partners to denounce the arrest as a blatant assault on free expression.

Duc’s arrest and withholding of information about his detention from his family amounted to “effectively forcibly disappearing him and raising concerns about his safety,” HRW said.

Reportedly, neither his lawyer nor his family have been permitted to meet with him since his detention.

Duc is also one of the most influential Vietnamese political commentators on Facebook with some 350,000 followers, HRW said.

His most recent Facebook post before his arrest warned about the myriad dangers posed by the concentration of power in Vietnam’s notoriously repressive Ministry of Public Security, which To Lam, Vietnam’s new president, formerly led.

He had also criticized the shortcomings of a recent anti-corruption campaign led by Communist Party leadership.

Duc was reportedly arrested right after the above two posts had appeared on Facebook. His page has been taken down since the arrest and is no longer accessible.

Duc was born in Ha Tinh province in north-central Vietnam in 1962.

He joined the military at the age of 18 and served in Vietnamese-occupied Cambodia during the mid-1980s.

In 1988, Duc joined the staff of Youth Newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City. This was the time of a rare reformist moment in postwar Vietnam wherein the Communist Party media were undergoing unprecedented liberalization.

Duc gained a reputation as a dogged reporter covering the country’s politics during his tenure with the Youth Newspaper.

Duc earned popularity among the public and contempt from the regime when he published a major corruption scandal involving sweetheart deals and shady land purchases by members of the prime minister’s family while working for Saigon Marketing newspaper.

A recipient of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, Duc went to study at the University of Maryland.

He returned to Vietnam in 2006 and established a popular blog where he continued to publish editorial commentary on pressing social and political issues which the authorities shut down in 2010.

In 2012, Duc spent a year at Harvard University on a Nieman Fellowship, during which he wrote his most influential work, a journalistic account of Vietnam’s postwar era titled The Winning Side (Ben Thang Cuoc).

The book is widely regarded as the most important nonfiction book about postwar Vietnamese history and politics and has been effectively banned in Vietnam.

Since 2020, Duc has continued to report on a range of Vietnam’s social and political problems, including environmental issues like deforestation.--ucanews.com

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