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Tag Archives: Freedom of Press

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

 

Anh Ba Sam at Trial

Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy at trial. Source: VietnamNet

On March 22, less than 24 hours before the trial of prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, families and friends of the two bloggers officially launched the book “Anh Ba Sam” in Ha Noi with foreign diplomats from Western embassies in attendance. “Anh Ba Sam” is the first bilingual Vietnamese-English book about a prisoner of conscience in Vietnam. It was released on Amazon on March 15, 2016.

At the meeting, Ms. Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of blogger Anh Ba Sam, and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuyen, mother of blogger Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, expressed their gratitude to Vietnamese people everywhere who have raised their voices against the violation of human rights of the bloggers and the violation of criminal procedural rules in their case.

Each guest who attended the book launch and meeting with the families received a copy of the book and a T-shirt with blogger Ba Sam’s portrait printed. A copy of the book had previously been sent to the office of the Prime Minister of Vietnam in Ha Noi. Read More

protesters at trial March 23 2016

Supporters hold posters including those that read ‘Freedom for Basam Nguyen Huu Vinh’ and ‘Nguyen Huu Vinh is innocent’ during a protest held in front of the People’s Court in Hanoi. Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

AP – March 23, 2016: Former police officer faces seven years in prison after being accused of writing stories that ‘distorted the policies’ of the Communist Party

The trial of a  prominent Vietnamese blogger accused of anti-government posts has started amid protests in Hanoi.

Nguyen Huu Vinh, a former police officer and son of a late government minister, and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, are accused of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state, an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Vinh, 59, and Thuy, 35, went on trial on Wednesday in Vietnam’s capital. They have been in jail since they were arrested in May 2014.

Vinh, better known as Anh Ba Sam, was a police officer with the ministry of public security in Hanoi. He quit in 1999 and set up a private investigation firm. His father was a government minister and Vietnam’s ambassador to the former Soviet Union. Read More

Tran Minh Nhat. Souce: thanhnienconggiao.wordpress.com

Tran Minh Nhat. Souce: thanhnienconggiao.wordpress.com

PEN INTERNATIONAL, 8 March 2016 – PEN International condemns the ongoing harassment faced by blogger Tran Minh Nhat and his family ever since his release in August 2015. Initially arrested in August 2011, Tran was sentenced to four years in prison and three years in probationary detention for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Criminal Code in connection with his writings for a website linked to the Catholic Church. He was released on 28 August 2015 upon completion of his prison sentence. Since then, Tran and his family have faced frequent and varying acts of harassment and intimidation at the hands of the authorities in Lam Ha district, Lam Dong Province and other unidentified assailants. PEN International calls on the Vietnamese authorities to end the harassment of Tran Minh Nhat and his family and to ensure their safety. PEN also calls on the authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of harassment reported by Tran Minh Nhat, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Read More