Police in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi tried on Tuesday to arrest an independent journalist charged with reporting on corruption and other issues deemed politically sensitive by authorities, but missed him at home, taking away a laptop computer and two mobile phones instead.
Le Van Dung, also known as Le Dung Vova—owner of the online CHTV news channel—was not at home when officers from the Hanoi Police Department’s Investigation Agency arrived at around 1:30 p.m., Dung’s wife Bui Thi Hue told RFA on Wednesday.
“Around 20 officers came to our house and read a warrant to search our home and to charge and temporarily detain my husband Le Van Dung in accordance with Article 117 [of Vietnam’s Criminal Code],” she said.
Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code imposes penalties for “creating, storing, and disseminating information, documents, items and publications opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and is frequently used by authorities to stifle peaceful critics of the country’s one-party communist state.
Dung was away from home when the police arrived and is now “temporarily safe,” Hue said, adding that officers searching the house found nothing belonging to her husband, but left with a laptop computer and two mobile phones of her own.
Hue said that she had not touched or looked at the warrant that was read to her and had to stand back from the officers because of COVID concerns.
“They documented their search, but I didn’t sign the document, and therefore they didn’t leave me with any papers,” she added.
Dung’s CHTV channel has used Facebook’s live-broadcast feature to transmit information on social issues such as land disputes and corruption, and to give ordinary citizens a chance to discuss matters of concern, drawing the attention of law enforcement and security agencies.
'Useful and good'
Writing on his Facebook page on May 25, Dung said he had received repeated calls since January to report to local authorities for questioning concerning a denunciation filed against him by the government’s Cybersecurity Department, alleging he had created videos with “anti-State” content.
Half of the 12 videos used by police investigators to accuse him showed signs of outside editing, though, Dung said.
“I think that I’ve done is useful and good for other people and for our country. We need to join hands and work to create a better society,” Dung said, writing on his Facebook page. “What I have done is in line with my responsibilities as a citizen.”
“I understand that by telling the truth, my family and I may suffer. But I will always do this, even if I am imprisoned for doing what my conscience tells me to do,” he said.
With Vietnam’s media all following Communist Party orders, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher forms of persecution,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.
Measures taken against them now include assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year.
“To justify jailing them, the Party resorts to the criminal codes, especially three articles under which ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the government,’ ‘anti-state propaganda’ and ‘abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state’ are punishable by long prison terms,” the rights group said.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. But arrests continue in 2021.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.