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Vietnam jails another Facebook user as dissent crackdown intensifies

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HANOI (Reuters) – A court in Vietnam sentenced a Facebook user to six years in prison on Tuesday for a series of posts he made on the social media platform that the Southeast Asian country’s government said were “anti-state”.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism, and its dissent crackdown has shown signs of intensifying recently.

Nguyen Chi Vung, 38, was accused of “making and spreading anti-state information and materials” at the one-day trial at the People’s Court of Bac Lieu province, in the Mekong Delta, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

It said Vung had held 33 livestream sessions on Facebook “to share distorted information” and “encourage people to participate in protests during national holidays”.

Reuters could not reach Vung’s lawyers for comment.

Vung will be placed under house arrest for two years after serving his jail term, the statement said.

The court’s Tuesday decision came days after a music teacher in the central province of Nghe An was convicted of the same offences and jailed for 11 years.

Facebook is widely used in the country and serves as the main platform for both e-commerce and dissent. Facebook said in May it increased the amount of content it restricted access to in Vietnam by more than 500% in the last half of 2018.

The ministry said in a separate statement on Tuesday that police in Nghe An have arrested a 23-year-old man accused of smearing the image of Ho Chi Minh and spreading anti-state propaganda on Facebook.

Last week, police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested freelance journalist and government critic Pham Chi Dung, accused of “anti-state” propaganda.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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