A Vietnamese court sentenced three journalists to between 11 and 15-year jail sentences on Tuesday, after they were found guilty of spreading anti-government propaganda, Reuters reported. 

Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan known for their frequent government criticism, were found guilty of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the state,” the Ministry of Public Security said, according to Reuters

Dung was jailed for 15 years and Thuy and Tuan 11 years each in a one-day trial, which took place in Ho Chi Minh City. All three were leading members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, which was founded in July 2014 in order to push for free speech and other democratic reforms, while Vietnamese police claimed the association sought a regime change in the country, according to Reuters. (RELATED: REPORT: Poland’s Justice Minister Introduces Bill To Hold Social Media Companies Accountable For Censorship)

In response to the indictments, The Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam released a statement vehemently denouncing the arrests of its three members, stating that they were a “blatant violation of people’s freedom of speech and free press.” 

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, the three journalists attempted to “distort and defame the people’s administration, infringe the interests of the Communist Party of Vietnam and state,” the ministry said in a statement obtained by Reuters. (RELATED: REPORT: Human Smugglers Who Accidentally Suffocated 39 Immigrants In Storage Container Found Guilty)

“These are especially dangerous activities that if not stopped could hurt national security,” it said.

The sentences on Tuesday are the latest in an intensifying campaign instituted by the government to crackdown on human rights activists and political dissidents ahead of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s 13th party congress scheduled for later this month, Human Rights Watch reported

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