Bangkok, February 1, 2013–In a widening crackdown on online expression, Vietnamese security officials have arrested critical independent blogger Le Anh Hung and are holding him against his will in a psychiatric institution, news reports said. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest and calls on authorities to immediately release Hung and all other journalists detained on spurious charges in Vietnam.
Six security agents arrested Hung on January 24 in the northern city of Hung Yen, saying they needed to question him in connection to matters related to his “temporary residence papers,” according to a Radio Free Asia report. The officers took Hung to Social Support Center No. 2, a mental health institution in Hanoi, the report said. The institution’s director later told Hung’s colleagues that he had been admitted at the request of his mother and was not allowed to see visitors, the report said.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of three international rights groups, said in a public statement that Hung’s mother had made no such request. The statement also said that before his arrest, Hung had been subjected to repeated interrogations, threats, and harassment by police. The RFA report said Hung has faced prior harassment for his online writings, which include critical blog entries on high-level corruption and abuse of power inside the ruling Communist Party.
“Hung’s arrest and detention underscore how sensitive officials have become to online criticism,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Instead of crushing online dissent, Vietnam’s government would be wise to listen to the growing dissatisfaction with its rule that is being expressed on independent blogs.”
On January 9, five independent bloggers were convicted on national security-related charges for their critical online writings and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 13 years. A pending draft decree threatens to further curb Internet freedom, including through provisions that would make it illegal to post materials anonymously online.
Vietnam was holding 14 journalists behind bars, making the country the sixth worst jailer of journalists in the world, when CPJ conducted its prison census on December 1. Thirteen of the journalists had published predominantly on independent blogs or in other online publications.
For more data and analysis on Vietnam, visit CPJ’s Vietnam page here.