Tag Archives: Vietnam

88-project-logoThe 88 Project, March 5, 2017: Greetings! We are excited to bring to you our very first weekly Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter, covering news and analysis regarding human rights and the development of civil society in Vietnam. Our take-away for this week: two new arrests; violence against dissidents and activists is on the rise, despite the lower number of arrests; issues of press freedom and labor rights are always matters of concern. Also, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting some information on Vietnamese female activists and the political participation of women in Vietnam. Finally, yet importantly, please take some time to take action for current prisoners of conscience Đinh Nguyên Kha and Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (Mẹ Nấm). More details and links below.

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Source: Thuc-Followers’s Facebook page

The 88 Project, February 16, 2017: Followers of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a prominent Vietnamese political prisoner, have started two petitions on to “urge VietNam Communist Party as well as the Parliament to hold a referendum for free election and on transformation to a multi-party political regime with the attendance and monitoring of the civil society groups across the nation.” The petition in Vietnamese has received 767 signatures after two weeks.

Thuc-Followers is an online community of almost 2,500 Vietnamese who agree with and follow Tran Huynh Duy Thuc‘s vision for a peaceful political change in Vietnam. This petition reflects the viewpoint that sustainable change must come from within the country, starting with giving the Vietnamese people political rights and equal participation in the political process, as individuals and as organized groups, that is, political parties and civil society organizations.

It should be noted that matters of multipartyism and free and fair elections are considered “politically sensitive” in the one-party communist regime in Vietnam. Members of opposition political parties are often the primary targets for harassment, persecution, and imprisonment by the regime’s powerful public security apparatus.

See and sign the petition in English here to support this vision of peaceful political change for Vietnam. The petition in Vietnamese can be found here. Read More

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


A lot has happened in Vietnam since bloggers took to the keys to write about human rights topics during Blog Action Day on October 16th. Unfortunately, Vietnam’s deteriorating human rights situation has only worsened in the three weeks following the event.

In mid-October, news surfaced of another hunger strike for imprisoned activist Cu Huy Ha Vu. Vu was on a 25-day hunger strike in June, protesting the actions of and treatment by prison officials. Vu began his second hunger strike after guards seized personal artwork from him, questioning its motives.

Only a few days later, on October 21st, the session for constitutional change opened in Vietnam. Parliament is expected to vote on proposed amendments to the current constitution between October 21st and November 30th. Several international groups and governments have urged Vietnam to strengthen human rights protections in the new constitution and eliminate the harmful loopholes that currently exist.

This session comes at a critical time as Vietnam seeks election to the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016 and continues negotiations with the United States over the Trans Pacific Partnership. If Vietnam does not heed international advice in considering human rights as a part of its constitution, it will make the case against cooperating with Vietnam for the TPP or a position on the UN Human Rights Council even stronger.

Policymakers in the United States and elsewhere raised concerns over the trial of Le Quoc Quan in early October, which led to a three-year sentence for “tax evasion.” Less than a month later, Dinh Nhat Uy received a 15-month suspended sentence for protesting on Facebook for the release of his younger brother from prison. Uy says he will appeal the court’s decision.

If that wasn’t enough for Vietnam, even this very Halloween week, activist Nguyen Lan Thang, who made a very popular video this fall about social media in Vietnam (see below), was detained. On October 30th, he was taken into custody at the airport (upon his return from participating in human rights dialogue in Bangkok) and was questioned by authorities. He was held until the following day.

Human Rights Watch reports 61 bloggers and activists imprisoned so far this year in Vietnam on the grounds of violating national security laws. That number is up from 40 in 2012 and has the possibility of rising exponentially in 2014. The only way to stop the number from growing is to keep watching and pressuring those who have evaded responsibility for it.

Vietnam’s Social Media video by Nguyen Lan Thang–


Human Rights Watch article on Dinh Nhat Uy–