A Vietnamese court sentenced Pham Thanh Nghien to four-and-a-half years in prison on charges of spreading propaganda on Jan. 29, the latest in a string of convictions against pro-democracy activists in the country. Human rights groups have criticized Vietnamese authorities repeatedly over the last few years for an increasingly intense crackdown on free speech — one that has seen writers, bloggers, lawyers and journalists put behind bars.
“It is deeply concerning that prosecutors used Nghien’s articles as a pretext to imprison her for anti-government views. This conviction leaves Vietnamese journalists and activists vulnerable to imprisonment on the basis of published work,” Bob Dietz, Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia Program Coordinator said in a press release.
Nghien was arrested in September 2008 and convicted in a one-day trial on charges of spreading anti-government propaganda. A freelance writer known for writing articles on human rights, democracy and Vietnam’s treatment of landless peasants, Nghien also posts her work on the Internet. Human Rights Watch named the 32-year-old writer the recipient of the 2009 Hellman/Hammett, an award given to writers facing political repression.
After serving her prison sentence, Nghien will also have to spend three years under house arrest, according to the court’s decision.
A week earlier, four pro-democracy activists received sentences ranging from 5 to 16 years on charges of subversion. In the last three months alone, 15 Vietnamese activists have faced charges, and all were quickly jailed.