FILE - A policeman directs traffic in front of a court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 8, 2018.
FILE - A policeman directs traffic in front of a court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 8, 2018.

HANOI - A Vietnamese court has jailed two activists on charges of publishing damaging anti-state propaganda about the communist-run country, state media reported Saturday, the latest convictions under a hardline leadership intolerant of dissent.

The women, Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong, were sentenced Friday to six and five years respectively for posting videos and articles on Facebook against proposed special economic zones and a beefed up cybersecurity law, the People's Police newspaper reported.

The court, in the country's south, found them both guilty of "making, hoarding and spreading propaganda information, documents and materials against the socialist republic of Vietnam".

Both market vendors, the two women are the latest to face harsh blowback for publicly opposing the cybersecurity law, which would require internet companies to hand over user data and remove content if requested by the government.

The proposed special economic zones are also deeply sensitive and sparked rare nationwide protests last year in which police stations and government offices were ransacked.

Independent media is banned in Vietnam, with online posts, comments and critics strictly monitored and bloggers, activists and rights lawyers routinely jailed.

The hardline leadership in charge since 2016 has been harsh on dissidents, with nearly 60 put behind bars last year according to an AFP tally.

A Vietnamese activist who also criticized both the special economic zones and the cybersecurity law was sentenced to two years in prison in March for "abusing democratic freedoms".

Critics say the draconian cyber law will be used to target online dissent, but it has yet to be implemented.

The draft bill on economic zones also sparked an uproar as many in Vietnam believed it would grant incentives to Chinese companies.

No mention of China was suggested in the legislation but officials put off passing the bill following the protests, which hit the capital Hanoi and the commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City.

Dozens of demonstrators have been jailed since taking part.

 

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