On this World Press Freedom Day, freelance journalist Pham Chi Dung is serving 15 years in a Vietnam prison. According to reports, authorities sentenced Dung in January, with three years of house arrest to follow the term.
The Ho Chi Minh City court convicted Dung of producing and disseminating anti-state and “distorted information about the people’s government.” The charges date to late 2019, when police arrested Dung at his home and reportedly seized “several documents.” Dung’s professional work has included coverage for the BBC and a blog with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America.
In the weeks prior to his arrest, Dung had published a critical view and started a petition against a potential free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam. He called on the European Parliament to delay ratification until Vietnam improved its human rights and press freedom standards, noting imprisonment of 18 political dissidents in the year 2019.
“In his final statement to the court, Pham Chi Dung said that if he was sentenced to a harsh verdict, it would be a blatant violation of freedom of the press, as well as other democracy and human rights in Vietnam,” Nguyen Van Mieng, one of Dung’s lawyers, told Voice of America.
As founding chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), Dung has led a group of 70 local journalists advocating for press rights. While governments harass, detain and silence journalists such as Dung, the One Free Press Coalition acts as a voice for all journalists under attack for pursuing the truth. Media outlets worldwide, including Voice of America, unite to give voice to their stories and hold power figures to account.
Today, the Coalition publishes this monthly list of the world’s “10 Most Urgent” press freedom abuses, including Dung’s case and the cases of fellow journalists who cover human rights topics. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) determined that 55% of journalists imprisoned in 2020 write about human rights, and 306 journalists reporting on human rights have been killed since 1992.
CPJ and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) maintain safety resources and provide support to ensure these professionals can carry out their work for the public good, and do so as safely as possible.
10 Most Urgent, May 2021
1. Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco (Mozambique)
Mozambican radio reporter and human rights advocate in Cabo Delgado has been missing for over a year as conflict in the region escalates. Family and colleagues still have no information on his whereabouts after he sent an SOS text saying he was “surrounded by soldiers.”
2. Kasra Nouri (Iran)
Journalist, serving a 12-year sentence related to his coverage of religious protests in 2018, has spent a significant amount of time in solitary confinement, been moved multiple times, and his family is currently unable to communicate with him.
3. Pham Chi Dung (Vietnam)
Freelance internet reporter and founding chairman of a civil society organization advocating for press freedom is serving a 15-year prison sentence on anti-state charges after calling on the EU to postpone trade agreements until Vietnam improves its human rights record.
4. Ahmed Humaidan (Bahrain)
Photographer covering protests in Bahrain was arrested while documenting protesters attacking a police station in 2012, and sentenced to ten years behind bars in 2014. He recently contracted and recovered from COVID-19 while imprisoned.
5. Esraa Abdelfattah (Egypt)
Longtime blogger, journalist and activist reporting on human rights has been held on false news and anti-state charges since 2019, and has had her pretrial detention extended. She has gone on hunger strikes multiple times to protest her sentence and treatment.
Leonardo Sakamoto is the president of Repórter Brasil, an investigative reporting organization, focused on issues from human trafficking to workers’ rights to environmental degradation. The outlet has faced online attacks, attempted break-ins and anonymous threats.
7. Sandhya Ravishankar (India)
Freelance journalist reporting on elections, politics and corruption, including on Tamil Nadu’s sand mafia and beach sand mining, has faced years of threats and harassment, including death and rape threats, doxing, and a 2018 attempt to sabotage her motorbike.
8. Agnieszka Pikulicka (Uzbekistan)
Freelance correspondent threatened publicly by Uzbek Interior Ministry with potential lawsuits in relation to her reporting on the attack of an LGBTQ activist.
9. Katsiaryna Barysevich (Belarus)
Correspondent for the independent news website Tut.by was sentenced earlier this year to six months behind bars for her coverage of protests in Belarus in 2020.
10. Daria Komarova (Russia)
Russian journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been put on three trials in relation to her coverage of pro-Navalny protests, facing potential fines and administrative detention.
See all #OneFreePress content by Forbes here.