• An environmental activist in Vietnam has been jailed for 6 years for writing and sharing “anti-state” Facebook posts, state media said.
  • Nguyen Ngoc Anh was arrested last year after he called for protests.
  • Prosecutors cited the large number of likes and shares for his posts in the case against him.
  • Nguyen’s sentence is the latest in a government crackdown on social media dissidence.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

An environmental activist in Vietnam was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday for writing “anti-state” social media posts, according to state media.

The verdict is part of a larger Communist Party crackdown which has taken a particular interest in social media. State authorities cited the large numbers of likes and shares the posts got in the case against him.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh was convicted for “making, storing, disseminating or propagandising materials and products that aim to oppose the state,” the state-controlled Vietnam News Agency reported.


Foto: Nguyen protested against the Formosa environmental disaster which had villagers burying dead fish.sourceVo Thi Dung/VNA via AP

Nguyen was arrested last year after sharing anti-government posts, and calling for protests in the June and September of 2018, Agence France-Presse reported.

It is unclear what exactly he wrote in the posts, but the indictment said they racked up 45,000 likes and more than 130,000 comments.

Nguyen, a shrimp farm owner, had attracted the government’s attetion before, according to Human Rights Watch.

He protested against Taiwanese steel company Formosa which dumped toxic waste into the ocean off Vietnam in 2016. Nguyen also boycotted national elections, and openly supported political prisoners.

Vietnam has taken harsh action against critics on Facebook, which has become a major platform for dissent in the country.

Earlier this year, the government accused the social media giant of breaking Vietnamese law by allowing users to criticize the state on its platform, The Guardian reported.

The nation’s cyber security law requires technology companies to provide “important” personal data to local authorities.

Read more: Vietnam says Facebook violated controversial cybersecurity law

This surveillance is helping the state target social media users it considers critics, according to Amnesty International.

vietnam parliament

Foto: Viatnamese parliament approved a sweeping cyber security law, which went into effect in January.sourceVietnam News Agency / AFP/Getty Images

The latest sentence has sparked international condemnation.

The European Union called for Nguyen’s release, and said the Viatnamese government is going against international conventions and its own constitution.

“Freedom of opinion and expression – both online and offline – are human rights, and are vital to ensure transparency, social justice, sustainable and inclusive development and prosperity,” the EU statement said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Nguyen’s “show trial” had the purpose of scaring other dissenting voices. Thursday’s trial ran parallel to the European Council ratifying a free trade agreement with Vietnam, he said.

The trial “shows how ruthless the government can be and demonstrates why human rights improvements need to be part of trade deals and not sidelined in the name of diplomacy,” Robertson said in a statement.