Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Vietnamese authorities to release Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger who posts under the name of “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom). Held since 10 October, she is facing a possible 20-year jail sentence on a charge of anti-government propaganda.
Arrested while visiting another dissident in prison in the southern city of Nha Trang, she had been targeted by the authorities for months. According to the public security ministry’s official newspaper, she is accused under article 88 of the penal code of “distorting the truth and history, defaming the ruling Communist Party and inciting violence against the Party.”
Quynh had written about the deaths of civilians in police custody in Facebook posts. She had also recently criticized the way the authorities handled a toxic spill from the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, in the north central province of Ha Tinh, which caused the deaths of thousands of tons of fish in April.
According to a police report, the authorities are planning to use more than 400 Facebook posts as evidence against her.
“Once again the authorities are using article 88 of the penal code, a massive deterrent, to silence criticism of the Party and, in this case, to cover up the Party’s mishandling of an environmental crisis,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We urge the authorities to release Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh without delay, along with all the other detained bloggers whose only crime was to provide their fellow citizens with freely-reported information. We welcome the European Union’s call for her release and we urge all EU member countries to issue similar calls. We also ask the EU to adopt strong measures designed to get Vietnam to respect its international human rights obligations.”
The Vietnamese authorities began a new crackdown in the spring. Last month, a court imposed a five-year jail sentence on the well-known blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and a three-year sentence on his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy.
Independent bloggers are a favourite target of the authorities in Vietnam, where the media are closely controlled and the least criticism of the regime by a journalist can result in arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 WorldPress Freedom Index.