December 8, 2017
(Lawyer Vo An Don ̣(fourth from the right), with a group of people waiting outside the courtroom during Mother Mushroom’s appeal trial. Source: Facebook page of Vo An Don.)
A court in central Vietnam sentenced video journalist Nguyen Van Hoa to seven years in prison on November 27, 2017, for reporting on environmental protests in central Vietnam as part of an ongoing crackdown on citizen journalism.
Only three days later, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, widely known as Me Nam or Mother Mushroom, saw a court uphold her 10-year prison sentence for Facebook posts about human rights and environmental issues involving the police and other state forces.
Hoa, 22, was accused of “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. The charge was related to his reporting on protests that followed an environmental disaster which led to tonnes of dead fish washing up across Vietnam’s central coast in April 2016.
Hoa was the first person in Vietnam to use a flycam drone to broadcast live footage of protests outside the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant which was revealed to be the cause behind the toxic spill. His footage of more than 10,000 people outside the Formosa gates went viral across social media.
One of her lawyers, Vo An Don, a prominent human rights lawyer, had his law license revoked by the Phu Yen Bar Association on November 26, four days before her trial. He was barred from representing her during the appeals trial.