Journalist gets 9-year prison term for criticizing government

A Vietnamese court has upheld a nine-year prison sentence for Pham Doan Trang, journalist and prominent dissident, who was earlier convicted of anti-state activities.

Trang’s lawyers and state media said the Hanoi People’s High Court rejected Trang’s appeals, during a tightly controlled trial in the capital.

Trang, 44, was convicted in December of conducting propaganda against the state, after publishing materials on human rights violations and alleged police brutality in Vietnam.

“Trang argued that the initial trial in December did not follow domestic legal procedures and international treaties, but the court insisted that there was no foundation to accept her appeals,” said her lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, as quoted by Reuters.

The country’s Communist Party has heavily censored the media and tolerates little criticism, despite economic reforms and increasing social changes.

Trang’s family members and diplomats in Hanoi were barred from attending her appeals trial, Manh said.

Meanwhile, the European Union said the charges against Trang were “vague.”

Nabila Massrali, European Commission foreign affairs spokesperson said, “The EU continues to call on the Vietnamese authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained.”

Also, at a ceremony in Washington attended by U.S. first lady Jill Biden in March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared Trang the winner of an International Women of Courage prize.

In a written statement following the ruling, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “The U.S. is deeply concerned by the upheld conviction and nine-year prison sentence of renowned Vietnamese author and journalist Pham Doan Trang.”

State media said the court stressed that Trang was not innocent, though she had pleaded not guilty.

The court also upheld lengthy prison terms against three other activists earlier this month.