A music teacher was sentenced to 11-years imprisonment, by a Vietnamese court on Friday, for a series of Facebook posts, which the communist government considers 'anti-state'. The 43-year old music teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh, was arrested in May for his anti-state posts and sentenced by the People's Court at the coastal province of Nghe An, for the 11-years prison term.
Nguyen Nang Tinh was accused of "making and spreading anti-state information and materials." But the convicted music teacher has maintained that the account that shared those posts, was not his. "The prosecutors are stuck to the idea that the Facebook user named Nguyen Nang Tinh and my client Nguyen Nang Tinh are the same person," said Tinh's lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng.
This isn't the first time, that the communist Vietnamese government has cracked down on dissenting opinion being shared on social media. In November 2017, a 22-year old blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, was sentenced to a 7-years prison term. Six months later, another blogger Bui Hieu Vo was sentenced four-and-a-half years in prison for 'anti-state' Facebook posts.
In August, 2018 activist Le Dinh Luong was incarcerated for 20 years for his Facebook posts. A month later, a Facebook user was imprisoned for 27 months for his Facebook posts. Last November, another Facebook user was arrested for a picture he shared of the Vietnamese flag with a white colour sprayed on it. Just last month, a 54-year old architect was jailed for 12 months over his Facebook posts.
Though giving a space to dissent, the social media platform has been accused by activists for colluding with the Vietnamese government and curbing opposing opinion. Last April, a group of 50 human rights activists and independent media groups wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, accusing the social media platform of working with communist authorities to take down content and suspend accounts, of those whom the government considers anti-state.
The south-east Asian nation launched 'Force47', in 2017, which is a 10,000-strong 'cyber army' designed to combat online dissent. The country enforced a new 'Cyber Security Act' in January, this year, that requires tech companies to open offices in Vietnam, if they wish to do business in the country.
The controversial part of the legislation is that it requires the company to store users' data in servers located inside Vietnamese territory, that might subject the users to domestic surveillance and encroach upon their privacy. Vietnam is home to more than 45 million Facebook users and is the leading social media platform used in the country, after YouTube.