Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Nguyen Van Hai, a citizen journalist better known by the blog name of Dieu Cay, was released today, but points out that 26 other citizen journalists are still held in Vietnam, the world’s third biggest prison for netizens.
The Vietnamese authorities confirmed this afternoon that Dieu Cay, who had been held since 19 April 2008, was taken to Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport and was put on a flight to the United States. Vietnamese media said his family was not notified in advance but relatives went to the airport and were able to confirm the presence of US diplomats even if they were not able to see or speak to Dieu Cay. By contacting Dieu Cay’s wife, Voice of America’s Vietnamese service learned that his son, Nguyen Tri Dung, received a call from him at 22:45 local time while he was in the Hong Kong transit lounge. “We are delighted to know that Dieu Cay is free and no longer has to fear for his health, which suffered from the mistreatment he received in detention,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific Desk. “We hope he will not be kept apart from his family and that ways will be found for him to be reunited with those who have waited courageously for him for more than six years.” Lucie Morillon, the organization's programme director, added: “We would like to stress that 26 other bloggers and citizen journalists are still being held for exercising their right to freely inform their fellow citizens and the entire world about the human rights situation in Vietnam. We again urge the authorities to free all detained netizens.” Sentenced in December 2012 to 12 years in prison for “anti-state propaganda,” Dieu Cay continued to criticize the authorities while detained, denouncing the conditions in his prison in the central province of Nghe An, which badly affected his health and where his family was repeatedly prevented from visiting him. At one point he began a hunger strike that he terminated only when the Nghe An provincial authorities, after 35 days, acknowledged receipt of his letter condemning the conditions in the prison. Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Sign the petition, click here.