A Vietnamese court sentenced five journalists to prison and banned them from working for three years, state media reported, after they were convicted of spreading anti-state content on Facebook.
They were found guilty of “abusing democratic rights and freedoms by violating the interests of the state,” the Vietnam State News Agency (VNA) said.
Journalists created a newspaper called Bao Sach (Pure Newspaper) on Facebook, which, according to the indictment cited by the VNA, contained content that distorted information and defamed the government.
“The acts committed by the defendants also caused confusion, suspicion among the people,” he said.
Authorities in Vietnam regularly ban social media users from posting “anti-state” content.
Truong Chau Huu Danh, a former reporter and group leader, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison while the other defendants were sentenced to two to three years in prison, the VNA said.
All five will be banned from working in their profession for three years after being released from prison.
New York-based Asia Deputy Director for Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said Vietnam should not treat the media as “enemies of the state.”
“Even though many journalists are imprisoned, this will not stop people from complaining or demanding reforms in Vietnam,” Robertson said.
“The government must recognize that independent journalists and media are allies of good governance.”
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