The symbol of the independent Liberal Publishing House.
The Public Security Department in Vietnam’s Phu Yen province arrested Nguyen Bao Tien on May 5 for restoring and spreading anti-state material.
State-run Phap Luat newspaper said Tien, 35, from the province’s capital of Tuy Hoa, had been caught distributing books published by the banned independent Liberal Publishing House.
From August to October 2019, Tien received 68 packages of books with content defaming government policies and inciting people to fight against the communist government, the newspaper said. Some 24 packages of them were distributed to readers, it added.
On May 6, the banned publisher, which publishes books by former prisoners and activists, announced that it had completely lost contact with Tien since October 2019 as his Facebook and WhatsApp accounts were blocked.
“Then, around November and December 2019, we were continuously receiving notices from readers who were interrogated by police about police investigating a book-making line in Phu Yen. From this information, we know that Tien was arrested and that the civil police are seeking to blame him completely for the activities of Liberal Publishing House,” the publisher said in a statement.
The unregistered publisher said state-run media simultaneously reported on the arrest and prosecution of Tien 18 months after his disappearance.
He only exercises the right to freedom of speech and publication
It said it has grounds to suspect that Tien had been arrested and detained since October 2019, so he might have been illegally detained for the past 18 months.
“His work is completely justified. He only exercises the right to freedom of speech and publication, and the right to read books in a peaceful manner,” the publisher said.
The only independent publisher in the Southeast Asian country accused the government of “inhuman” stifling of freedom of speech and reading.
It demanded the government release Tien and other prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.
It said its members and partners have been persecuted, detained and harassed since its inception.
“We urge the international community, human rights organizations and citizens to speak up for Tien in this illegal arrest and detention. We hope the community helps us to reach his family to assist him in legal matters,” it said.
On April 23, the People’s Court of Phu Yen sentenced Nguyen Thi Tuyet Dieu, 33, a former journalist of a local state newspaper, to an eight-year jail term for conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 117 of the criminal code after posting stories and videos on Facebook and YouTube.
Dieu tackled taboo subjects such as rampant corruption among officials, environmental pollution, human rights abuses and the government’s lack of response to Chinese intrusions into Vietnamese waters.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 World Press Freedom Index.