On 31 Dec, 2012 – Freedom House condemns the recent escalation in the persecution of free speech advocates in Vietnam, and calls for the release of several bloggers who have been unjustly imprisoned for shining a light on corruption and human rights abuses.
Lawyer and blogger Le Quoc Quan was arrested December 27 in Hanoi following a recent order by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that authorities renew the fight against anyone using the Internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the state.” Although he was reportedly charged with tax evasion which is frequently used by the government to silence activists and critics of the government, Le Quoc Quan was known for blogging about human rights abuses, religious freedom, and issues that are ignored by the state-controlled media.
On December 28, an appeals court upheld the 12-year prison sentence for Nguyen Van Hai (“Dieu Cay”) and 10-year prison sentence for Ta Phong Tan, after both bloggers were indicted in September 2012 for “producing propaganda against the state” and “writing and disseminating information online” about human rights and corruption. A third blogger, Phan Thanh Hai, who pled guilty at the September 2012 trial, had his sentence reduced from four to three years following the appeal.
Freedom of expression is severely curtailed in Vietnam, and the country rated Not Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012, and Freedom on the Net 2012. Harassment of cyber-activists has been on the rise since 2008, with the government engaging in a targeted campaign against critics, cracking down on blogs and social media, and harassing and detaining independent bloggers and their families.