Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness toward social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), who gained prominence for blogging about environment issues and deaths in police custody, was found guilty in June for distributing what police called anti-state reports.
A court in the central city of Nha Trang upheld Quynh’s sentence, one of her lawyers said.
“This sentence is not objective and is unfair,” Ha Huy Son said by telephone. “Quynh said she is innocent and she carried out her right as a citizen.”
Vietnam’s state news agency confirmed the appeal outcome.
Quynh’s mother said she was among those outside the court protesting against the verdict when plainclothes policemen approached and beat them.
“The police beat me repeatedly,” Nguyen Tuyet Lan, the mother, said, adding that police detained three activists. Reuters was unable to reach police for comment.
In March 2009, Quynh spent nine days in police detention for receiving funds from Viet Tan, a California-based activist group which Vietnam calls a terrorist group, to print T-shirts with slogans against a major bauxite project, police said.
She has also spoken out against a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics that caused one of Vietnam’s biggest environmental disasters in April.
A US diplomat in Vietnam said she was “deeply troubled” that the court upheld Quynh’s conviction.
“The US calls on Vietnam to release Ms. Quynh and all prisoners of conscience immediately, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully,” Caryn McClelland, the US chargé d’affaires, said in a statement.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called the appeals hearing a farce.
“The proceedings were a farce, with the judge simply going through the motions before issuing the harsh verdict predetermined by the ruling communist party, upholding her long prison sentence,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia.