Vietnam upholds blogger Mother Mushroom’s 10-year jail sentence

Bangkok, November 30, 2017–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a Vietnamese appeals court’s decision today to uphold a 10-year prison sentence against blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, widely known as “Me Nam” or “Mother Mushroom.”

During a one-day trial in June, a Vietnamese court convicted Quynh of “propagandizing” against the state, an anti-state provision under article 88 of the penal code that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, CPJ documented at the time. The charges stemmed from 18 articles posted on Quynh’s Facebook page, including her reporting on an industrial toxic spill that devastated large swathes of the country’s central coast, reports said.

Quynh, who writes her own blog and for platforms run by Vietnamese abroad, reports widely on human rights issues, with an emphasis on the country’s high number of deaths in police custody, CPJ research shows.

After today’s hearing, the blogger’s lawyer, Nguyen Ha Luan, said that Quynh maintained her innocence and her reporting did not constitute a crime, The Associated Press reported.

“We strongly condemn today’s ruling to uphold the 10-year prison sentence given to blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh for doing her job as a reporter,” said CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin. “Critical reporting on poor governance, official abuses, and environmental disasters should not be considered a crime in Vietnam. Quynh should be released without delay.”

Vietnamese authorities first detained Quynh in October 2016 and then held her in pre-trial detention.

Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Tuyet Lan, told Reuters that she was outside the court protesting the verdict when police approached her and beat her repeatedly. According to the Reuters report, police also detained three activists who were protesting alongside Lan.

In the lead-up to today’s hearing, Vietnam’s Bar Federation disbarred one of Quynh’s defense lawyers, Vo An Don, for providing false information to foreign media, abusing his right to free speech by spreading propaganda, and distorting the truth, according to international media reports that cited the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper.