Vietnam hands down long jail terms to 'anti-state' Facebook users

HANOI, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A Vietnamese court on Wednesday handed lengthy terms of jail and house arrest to two Facebook users for anti-state activities, police said, a day after a journalist and prominent dissident was imprisoned on the same charge.

A Hanoi court sentenced Trinh Ba Phuong to 10 years in prison and five years of house arrest, and Nguyen Thi Tam to six years in jail and three years of house arrest, for "conducting propaganda against the state" the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Reuters could not immediately reach their lawyers for comment.

Despite significant economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam's ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and tolerates little criticism.

Phuong, 36, and Tam, 49, were accused of posting videos and articles on their Facebook accounts to incite protests and to slander the authorities. Their sentences were among the most harsh given to critics of the government.

They were accused of distorting information about a land dispute last year that captured widespread attention after a clash that left three policemen and at least one farmer dead.

The same court on Tuesday jailed journalist and dissident Pham Doan Trang for nine years for the same offence, a verdict condemned by the United States and international human rights groups. read more

Facebook is not blocked in Vietnam, where it has around 70 million users and is the country's main platform for e-commerce and political dissent.

Facebook and the government have been in a constant tussle over the removal of content deemed to be "anti-state".

Facebook has said its goal is to remain accessible to Vietnamese so they can connect with friends, run businesses and express themselves.

Editing by Martin Petty

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