Vietnam Right Now, Nov. 3, 2016 – Another well known blogger has been arrested, as the authorities continue their campaign to silence independent voices.

Ho Van Hai was detained in Ho Chi Minh City and accused of distributing information on the internet that was against the state.

The 52-year-old blogger was not immediately charged under legislation normally used to silence dissident voices.

Police said they were investigating, but gave no details of Hai’s suspected offence.

His blog and Facebook page are no longer accessible. Read More

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Mai Khôi. Source: Internet

DPA International, Hanoi, Oct. 31, 2016– Known locally as “Vietnam’s Lady Gaga,” pop singer Mai Khoi has put her career and freedom on the line by courting controversy in her conservative homeland.

Her latest album “Cuffed in Freedom,” due for release by year’s end, features a pro-democracy message in a country where opposition to the single party communist state is effectively banned.

From her beginnings as a risque pop star teasing the nation’s conservative approach to sexuality, the so-called “Lady Gaga of Vietnam” has recently upper her challenge to Vietnam’s authoritarianism.

“I’m not against the government. I just show what they should do and what the citizens want them to do,” Khoi told dpa.

Earlier this year, Khoi nominated herself as an independent candidate for a National Assembly seat, seeking to directly confront the country’s political establishment.

She was quickly disqualified – nominations have always gone to Communist Party supporters – but not before she openly showed herself as a regime critic.

Retribution was swift. Khoi vanished from TV and radio. One of her concerts in Ho Chi Minh City was raided by police. Despite having the support of nearly 38,000 followers on Facebook, she was no longer booked for local shows because venues feared government action.

“It only takes one decision from someone in the government to stop people from inviting you to sing anymore. Even the national media stops talking about you,” Khoi said. Read More

photoAmnesty International – Urgent Action 246/16, Oct. 28, 2016: Three human rights defenders engaged in activism relating to an ecological disaster in Viet Nam are facing severe harassment, including public denunciations, prosecution and death threats. They could be arrested for “conducting propaganda” against the state.
Since the deaths of an estimated 70 tonnes of fish, shrimp, squid and other animals along a 200 kilometre stretch of the Vietnamese central-eastern coastline in April 2016, demonstrations and other activities have taken place calling for information on the cause of the disaster. After two months of speculation, at a press conference in June, the government declared that Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group had admitted responsibility for the serious environmental disaster and that the company had pledged to pay VND11.5 trillion (US$ 500 million) in compensation to the Vietnamese government to improve conditions in the affected provinces.
Father Đặng Hữu Nam, Nguyễn Văn Tráng and Paulus Lê Văn Sơn have been involved in organising activities calling for transparency and accountability in relation to the disaster, including compensation for those affected. Father Đặng Hữu Nam, a Catholic priest from Phú Yên parish, Vinh diocese in Nghệ An province has been helping to organize mass protests. He has also assisted with legal complaints from 506 people to Viet Nam’s authorities to claim compensation from Formosa Plastic Group company. Nguyễn Văn Tráng, a university student from Thanh Hóa province and a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, an online pro-democracy discussion group, joined a protest against Formosa on 1 May and was arrested on 7 May and again on 19 May. Paulus Lê Văn Sơn, a former prisoner of conscience and Catholic social activist and journalist, has also participated in protests over the ecological disaster calling for justice and compensation.
Amnesty International is concerned that the three men are at imminent risk of arrest under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code for “conducting propaganda” against the state. These charges provides for between three and 20 years’ imprisonment. The three men have also faced severe harassment which has intensified after their activities linked to the ecological catastrophe: Father Nam has been subjected to surveillance, death threats, arrests and beatings by security police and individuals in plain clothes; Nguyễn Văn Tráng has been targeted through public denunciations in local media, on the radio and on neighbourhood loudspeakers; Paulus Lê Văn Sơn has been subjected to surveillance, denounced in local media and now fears for his safety.
1) TAKE ACTION
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the authorities to immediately end the harassment, attacks and threats against Father Đặng Hữu Nam, Nguyễn Văn Tráng and Paulus Lê Văn Sơn and other human rights defenders for their participation in peaceful protests.
  • Calling on the authorities to ensure the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in accordance with Viet Nam’s obligations under international human rights law.
Contact these two officials by 9 December, 2016:
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Prime Minister’s Office
Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Email: nguoiphatngonchinhphu@chinhphu.vn
Fax: + 84 80 44940
Salutation: Your Excellency
Ambassador H.E. Pham Quang Vinh
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW Suite #400, Washington DC 20036
Fax: 1 202 861 0917  I  Phone: 1 202 861 0737  I  Email: info@vietnamembassy.us
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/get-involved/take-action-now/take-action-three-environmental-activists-face-harassment-and-risk-arrest-viet-nam-ua-24616
cyber-control-2

Source: Internet

The Diplomat, Oct. 21, 2016 – Vietnam’s newly enacted cybersecurity law shows the legislative confusion of a government caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, Vietnam’s computer networks are among the most targeted for attack in the world, courtesy of rampant cybercrime and legions of Chinese hackers. The July hacking of Noi Bai Airport underlined the scale of Vietnam’s cyber woes. Investment in national cyber security efforts must increase drastically.

On the other hand, the new law makes it clear the government is antsy about citizens with the cyber savvy to encrypt their online communications. Political and media control, after all, requires the ability to monitor citizens’ online activities.

Therein lies the paradox. A citizenry largely ignorant of cyber security makes the job of hackers all the easier. Access to networks is often gained not through brute force means, but via phishing attacks that target individuals – as was likely the case with the Noi Bai Airport hack.

Citizens encrypting their online communications do not threaten national cyber security. Rather the opposite, they enhance it. But there is scant support for this notion in Vietnam’s 2015 Cyber Information Security Law, enacted on July 1, 2016. Read More

me-nam

Source: #FreeMeNam Facebook page

Prominent blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, aka Mẹ Nấm (“Mother Mushroom”) was arrested in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam on Oct. 10, 2016 under Article 88 for “propaganda against the State.” As a co-founder and coordinator of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers and the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year by Civil Rights Defenders, Mẹ Nấm is a well-known blogger both in the blogger community in Vietnam and internationally. She has been instrumental in human rights education in Vietnam in the past ten years through her blog posts and through her active participation in human rights promotion events off-line. She has written about politically sensitive issues such as police brutality, corruption, and has openly criticized controversial government’s policies such as the bauxite mining in the Central Highlands (for which she was arrested for 10 days in 2009), and, more recently, the government handling of the massive fish deaths in Central Vietnam.

Please take this Urgent Action by Amnesty International to demand Me Nam’s release, to ask that she has access to a lawyer and her family and that she’s treated in accordance with international law. Political prisoners in Vietnam are held incommunicado during the investigation/pre-trial period and face risks of torture and other ill-treatments, as documented by Amnesty International’s recent report “Prisons within prisons” on the conditions of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

Below are the profile of blogger Me Nam by Civil Rights Defenders (2015) and news and reactions from the international community about her recent arrest.

Civil Rights Defenders, 2015: “At great personal risk, Me Nam has been right at the forefront of human rights activism in Vietnam. With creativity and openness, she is a source of inspiration as she breaks new ground for freedom of expression and speaks out for those who can’t.”

Ms. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh is the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year. She is Coordinator for the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and well known for her use of social media to speak out against injustices and human rights abuses in Vietnam.

Quỳnh has been blogging under the pseudonym of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and has openly criticised the Vietnamese government over human rights abuses and corruption. She began blogging in early 2006 when she paid a visit to a hospital and witnessed many poor people in the hot sun desperately waiting for treatment, but ignored because they lacked money to bribe hospital officials.

Quoted on her award diploma Civil Rights Defenders sums up the wonderful spirit of this worthy recipient. “At great personal risk, Me Nam has been right at the forefront of human rights activism in Vietnam. With creativity and openness, she is a source of inspiration as she breaks new ground for freedom of expression and speaks out for those who can’t.”

Her personal motivation for blogging about injustices in Vietnam comes down to a very simple and personal reason, which she sums up in her own words; “I do not want my children to struggle and do what I’m doing now.”

Read our report about bloggers and the human rights movement in Vietnam: We will not be silenced

Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh – winner of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2015.

Source: Defenders’ Days 2015 Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh

The New York Times, Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government, Oct. 11, 2016

Committee to Protect Journalists, Prominent blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ detained in Vietnam, Oct. 11, 2016

Associated Press, US and EU call on Vietnam to release arrested blogger, Oct. 12, 2016

U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, Oct. 12, 2016

United Nations, UN human rights chief expresses concern about Viet Nam’s crackdown on blogger, Oct. 14, 2016

Human Rights Watch, Vietnam: Reform Criminal Law to Respect Rights – Assembly Should Overhaul Laws Recently Used to Silence Blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’, Oct. 17, 2016

Reporters without Borders, RSF calls for blogger’s immediate release, Oct. 17, 2016

Vietnamese Bloggers, Campaign to Free Me Nam (in Vietnamese)

The media has been buzzing lately with news about Vietnam– the protests of the large-scale fish deaths, President Obama’s visit (and the question of lifting the arms ban), and the much-welcomed release of Father Nguyen Van Ly from his fourth, and hopefully final, prison sentence. We also want to make sure that news circulates about Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is starting a hunger strike on May 24th, during the President’s visit and on the anniversary of his arrest.

Thuc, an entrepreneur and blogger, is currently serving a 16-year sentence. He is less than halfway through the sentence. On May 5, Thuc was moved from Xuyen Moc prison to Prison 6, which is located in central Vietnam. The reason for the transfer is unclear, and this means he is now further away from his family. This distancing tactic has been seen in other cases of prisoners of conscience as well.

Thuc’s family visited him at the new prison on May 14th and reported that he looked sleep-deprived and thinner. Thuc told his family that the authorities proposed to release him, but only on the condition that he be exiled in the U.S.. This was an approach also used by the authorities in the releases of Dieu Cay and Ta Phong Tan. Releases, while positive, when coupled with forced exile, further silence activist voices and give off a false international image that Vietnam is complying with international requests for improved human rights.

Thuc turned down the proposition, saying he would rather die than be exiled from Vietnam. His hunger strike aims to promote government adherence to the rule of law and the right to democratic governance by the people in Vietnam. We are deeply concerned about Thuc’s treatment in prison, as well as the health risks that a hunger strike can pose. He has committed no crime and for far too many years has awaited justice. Please take action with us, below. For more background on Thuc’s case, visit his profile.

Take Action
Send an Urgent Action, from Amnesty International, on behalf of Thuc and other imprisoned activists.
Sign a petition on change.org, set up by his family.
Tweet at President Obama, asking him to press for the release of Thuc permanently and not conditioned on exile. You can Tweet @POTUS, @BarackObama, or @State_DRL (Human Rights @ State).
Sample Message: Take action for Tran Huynh Duy Thuc on #Vietnam visit.Serving 16 years, soon to be on hunger strike. #FreeThuc.

JailBecause Vietnamese press has never been free.

A brief review of international reports last month is enough to convey the situation of the press’ (lack of) freedom year-round:

Human Rights Watch, April 4: “Vietnam: 7 Convicted in One Week. Long Prison Terms for Bloggers, Activists” – among them were three prominent bloggers/citizen journalists.

U.S. State Department 2015 Human Rights Report, April 15: “The CPV, government, and party-controlled mass organizations exercised legal authority over all print, broadcast, and electronic media through the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), under the overall guidance of the CPV Propaganda and Education Commission. Private ownership or operation of any media outlet remained prohibited […] Major foreign media outlets reported the government refused to issue visas for reporters who previously covered sensitive political topics, particularly reporters for overseas Vietnamese-language press.”

Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index, April 20: “As the media all take their orders from the Communist Party, the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and citizen-journalists, who are the permanent targets of extremely harsh forms of persecution including police violence.” Vietnam ranks 175/180 in the 2016 Index.

Reports by Vietnamese citizen journalists and civil society organizations only add to those gloomy analyses:

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders, April 17, “Hanoi Security Forces Suppress Bloggers, Blocking Meeting to Discuss Obama’s Upcoming Visit”: “On April 17, security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi suppressed local bloggers from a meeting to discuss the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the Southeast Asian nation scheduled in late May. A number of members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including IJAVA’s Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Vu Quoc Ngu were blocked from going out of their private residences by plainclothes agents from Thanh Tri district’s police.”

@AnhChiVN Twitter, April 20: “#Vietnam: A lot of facebook users summoned by police for questioning. One kind of harassment.”

And, right now, as I am writing this post, a citizen journalist, Mr. Truong Minh Tam, is under arrest for travelling to the central coast and reporting independently about the mass fish deaths along the coast. According to Vietnam Path Movement’s press release, “After doing the report, on the evening of April 28, 2016, Mr. Tam returned to Hanoi but since had been incommunicado. Then, on May 1, 2016, Vietnam National Television (VTV) and a few websites have confirmed that Ha Tinh’s Police Department arrested and detained him for collecting information and photographs to spread on the Internet with the purpose of inciting the public.”

The picture of press freedom in Vietnam has always been dark. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get brighter anytime soon. The flashiness of state-run websites and printed magazine covers can’t conceal the fact that all media outlets are owned and controlled by the state, that private press isn’t allowed, and that, by consequence, citizens only get filtered information, centrally fabricated information, or no information at all, on matters citizens consider vital and the state deems “sensitive,” such as the East Sea (South China Sea) dispute, the bauxite mining controversy in the Central Highlands, or the mass fish deaths along the central coast. Needless to say, the mainstream press accords no room for dissidents’ voice.

Dissidents, independent journalists and free-minded citizens have turned to blogs and social media, especially Facebook and YouTube, to share and exchange information and viewpoints. They are freer in expression there, because the authorities don’t have the capacity to monitor tens of millions of social media users. But it doesn’t mean they are free from state control and persecution. Prominent bloggers have been harassed and imprisoned for their online expression. Facebook users have been summoned about activities on their Facebook pages. Where’s freedom, then, when people have to worry constantly about getting fined or arrested for saying the wrong thing, sharing the wrong information, or even liking the wrong post?

After all, it’s another World Press Freedom Day the Vietnamese government doesn’t celebrate. But on this day, The 88 Project would like to remember and honor independent journalists and activists who have courageously and persistently reported on sensitive issues, pushing the boundaries of what is permissible in the Vietnamese press, and holding the government accountable before the public opinion. Many independent journalists and bloggers have risked their own freedom for the freedom of information of others. We are remembering in particular:

Until the day journalists will be free to write without persecution, and until the day private press will be allowed, World Press Freedom Day will just be another day to remind ourselves and others that despite the promise of “inalienable rights,” including the rights to”Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” in Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence in 1945, decades later, “Liberty” is still a luxury that is out of reach for all Vietnamese.

© The 88 Project 2016