Reporters Without Borders is appalled that the Vietnamese authorities announced at a news conference yesterday that they are charging blogger Pham Minh Hoang with “activities aimed at overthrowing the government” (article 79 of the criminal code) and membership of a “terrorist organisation” (the banned opposition party Viet Tan).
A mathematics teacher at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic School, Hoang was arrested on 13 August. He studied in France for many years and has French as well as Vietnamese nationality.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s systematic use of conspiracy theory to silence dissidents and calls on France and the European Union to press for Hoang’s release, in line with the French government’s recent pledge to defend online free expression.
Police cited 30 articles which Hoang posted on his blog under the pseudonym of Phan Kien Quoc and which are available on the Viet Tan website. They also accused him of organising 40 students into a group for training as future Viet Tan members.
His wife, Le Thi Kieu Oanh, is also accused of being a party member but is not being prosecuted because they have a very young child. Oanh denies being a Viet Tan member and insists that the sole reason for her husband’s arrests was his opposition to bauxite mining by a Chinese company bauxite mining by a Chinese company in the central highlands.
The subject is banned in Vietnam and the authorities often arrest journalists and bloggers who try to cover it such as Bui Thanh Hieu (http://nguoibuongio.multiply.com/) and the lawyer Le Cong Dinh (http://en.rsf.org/vietnam-call-for-release-of-lawyer-who-15-06-2009,33406.html). Bauxitevietnam.info, a site that offers information about the mining, has been the target of hacker attacks aimed at silencing it.
Reporters Without Borders released a report last June about the threats to journalists who specialise in covering the environment. It included a section on the censorship and repression surrounding the subject of bauxite mining in Vietnam.