Vietnam jails blogger for anti-state propaganda

HANOI, Vietnam — A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced a doctor to four years in prison for writing and posting dozens of articles on social media that the court said tarnished the image of the country's leaders and instigated people to boycott local elections, state media reported Friday.

Ho Van Hai, 54, was convicted of spreading propaganda against the state at his one-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday. He was also sentenced to two years' probation, Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

He was accused of writing and posting three dozen articles on his blog and Facebook page that tarnished and slandered the country's leaders, distorted government policies and instigated people to boycott elections, it said.

Hai had blogged under the name BS Ho Hai or Doctor Ho Hai and was arrested in November 2016.

Despite economic reforms three decades ago that opened up the communist-ruled country to foreign investment and trade, making it one of fastest growing economies in the region, the one-party state maintains tight control on all aspects of life including the media and has zero tolerance for dissent.

Seven people have been convicted and given prison sentences for spreading propaganda against the state over the past two weeks while two dozen others were sentenced in December for terrorism and subversion.

International human rights groups and some Western governments have criticized Vietnam for punishing those who peacefully express their views. Hanoi maintains that only law breakers are punished.

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