The US State Department and the European Union (EU) both voiced a “harsh” sentence and called for the release of three members of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), who were convicted at the trial on January 5.
In a statement sent to VOA on the evening of January 5, the US Department of State wrote: “We are very disappointed to hear about harsh verdicts by a court in Vietnam against three members of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam, including Mr. Pham Chi Dung, founder, and chairman of the association.
“These harsh sentences are the latest in a disturbing trend of arrests and convictions aimed at Vietnamese citizens exercising the rights inscribed in the Vietnamese constitution,” the US State Department wrote.
Also on the evening of January 5, the US Embassy Spokesperson in Vietnam Kellee Farmer sent a notice to VOA calling on the Vietnamese government to ensure its actions to be in line with human rights in the country’s Constitution as well as international obligations and commitments.
At the end of the statement, the US State Department and the embassy wrote: “Freedom of the press is the foundation of transparency and responsible governance. Authors, bloggers, and journalists often do their jobs at great risk, and we urge governments and citizens around the world – including the Government of Vietnam – to protect them.”
On the morning of January 6, the EU spokesman sent a notice to VOA which wrote: “Sentencing Mr. Pham Chi Dung 15 years in prison and Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan to 11 years in prison each is a negative development. All three are members of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a civil society organization that promotes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.”
“States must protect freedom of expression and create a conducive environment to public debate even when the opinions expressed are contrary to those given by the government. The right to freedom of expression – both online and in-person – is crucial to transparency, social equity, sustainable development, and inclusiveness and prosperity,” said the EU.
“The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution of Vietnam, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions to which Vietnam is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. Furthermore, within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review, Vietnam has accepted recommendations to ensure and remove restrictions on freedom of expression. However, the increase in arrests, imprisonment, and convictions of Vietnamese journalists and human rights defenders has gone in the opposite direction.”
The EU expects Vietnamese authorities to immediately release Dung, Thuy, and Tuan, as well as all journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders imprisoned for expressing their point peacefully.
The EU said it will continue to monitor and work with Vietnamese authorities and all stakeholders to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam.