A Vietnamese court jailed a prominent social commentator for five years on Wednesday for anti-state activities, his lawyer and state media said, among dozens of activists that rights groups say are being persecuted for criticising the government.
Le Van Dung, 51, was convicted of conducting propaganda against the state of Vietnam, lawyer Ha Huy Son said, in a trial that lasted only a few hours.
Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism.
Dung was accused of making and uploading 12 videos on the internet to defame the administration and “offend the honour and prestige of the party and state leaders,” reported national radio Voice of Vietnam.
Dung, who goes by “Le Dung Vova”, regularly broadcast live to thousands of followers on Facebook and YouTube before his arrest in June last year.
“He didn’t plead guilty at the trial and will appeal the verdict,” his lawyer said.
Vietnam last week objected to the United States granting a prize for courage to a dissident writer who was jailed for nine years last year for anti-state propaganda.
Its foreign ministry described her award as “unobjective and unsuitable”.
Ahead of Wednesday’s trial, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said Vietnam should drop the charges against Dung, who he said was one of more than 60 people being prosecuted for speaking out.
“Vietnamese authorities persist in treating any sort of criticism of the government as a grave threat to be prosecuted with long prison terms,” he said.
“International donors and trade partners of Vietnam should press Hanoi to listen to its critics instead of persecuting them.”