Facebooker arrested for allegedly circulating gossip about celebrities

A facebooker, arising late last year and becoming famous for her entries revealing private life of celebrities, has been “urgently arrested” and had her residence searched, the Ministry of Public Security confirmed on June 12. She is the newest case being accused of violating Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.

According to the police, in late 2014, Vietnamese facebook users saw the emergence of a group of facebookers whose nicknames included Huyen Nguyen, Tuyet Anh Tran, Thanh co co boc, Minh Minh Phan, etc. These facebookers collectively published contents gossiping about celebrities and disseminated their private photos on social media networks. Many famous models, singers and business people were targeted.

The newly arrested facebooker, Tran Thi Huong Giang, was accused of committing libel. However, she was charged under Article 258 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.” This leads to the question as to why such a law is resorted to while provisions concerning libel and defamation in the Penal have been scarcely used.

This photo, circulated on Facebook, showed the detainee in handcuffs waiting while the police were taking a search at her residence.

This photo, circulated on Facebook, showed the detainee in handcuffs waiting while the police were taking a search at her residence.

The arrest reminds bloggers of a similar case in 2010 when famous blogger and journalist Le Nguyen Huong Tra, better known as Co Gai Do Long (the Dragon-killing Lady), was detained and accused of committing libel after she published an article on the wedding of a ballerina and the son of a senior police officer. Tra was jailed for four months and only released after her family had pleaded the police for mercy.

Lawyer Nguyen Thanh Cong, CEO of Dong Phuong Luat law firm, on June 12 was quoted by Tra on her Facebook page as saying, “So far, there has not been any sub-law document to elaborate the enforcement of Article 258. Therefore, the decision to initiate this case is granted at the discretion of the investigating body. I personally think that in this case, the accused should be charged under Article 121 for “humiliating other people” instead.”

However, an anonymous source told Viet Nam Right Now that the real reason for Tran Thi Huong Giang’s arrest was because she scammed people into believing she was the daughter of state president Truong Tan Sang, thereby winning over benefits and fraudulently stealing their money.

This is the first time an apparently non-political facebooker has been arrested under Article 258.