Two Vietnamese citizen journalists, Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh, have been sentenced to three and two years, respectively, for broadcasting shortwave radio programmes into China.
The two were convicted in a summary trial by the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam on 10 November. They were charged under Article 226 of the penal code for “the illegal transmission of information on a telecommunications network.”
The broadcasters were initially detained on June 11, 2010 under an administrative charge of operating broadcasting devices without a permit. The revised criminal charge carries a much harsher penalty and freedom of expression advocates condemned what is seen as caving to Chinese pressure on the Vietnamese government.
Prior to their arrest the two men had been broadcasting programmes from The Sound of Hope Radio Network, an overseas Chinese radio station linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, since April 2009. Both men are also members of the movement, which has been forcibly suppressed and persecuted in China since 1999, but which ostensibly remains legal in Vietnam.
Two days before the trial, more than 40 followers of the Falun Gong movement were detained after holding a silent protest outside of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi in support of the two journalists.
Governments in the region tend to buckle under pressure from the Chinese government and have banned the reporting of information related to Falun Gong.
On 8 September 2011, the manager of Batam-based Radio Era Baru in Indonesia, Gotot Machali, was served a six-month jail term for its reports on the persecution of Falun Gong members. The radio station itself, which also broadcast SOH programming, was later forcibly shut down.
In 2005 the Malaysian government banned several editions of the Epoch Times after a series of editorials criticising the Chinese Communist Party. The international publication is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement and known to be critical of the party.
SEAPA (http://www.seapabkk.org/) is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). SEAPA also has partners in Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.
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