The summit’s official slogan, “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future,” seems far removed from reality because the decision to hold it in Da Nang constitutes an endorsement of the policies of a country that has waged an unprecedented crackdown on the freedom to inform in recent months.
The Vietnamese government has systematically criminalized freedom of expression during the past year by means censorship, arbitrary detention and covert state violence. At least 25 bloggers have been arrested or deported.
The #StopTheCrackdownVN coalition that RSF formed with nine other NGOS will hand in a letter today to the 21 APEC member countries alerting them to these violations of fundamental freedom and urging them to press Vietnam to respect its international obligations. These include its obligations as a member of APEC, whose goal is to “sustain the growth and development of the region for the common good of its peoples.”
“The APEC summit is a forum in which member countries should question their partners about any failure to respect the organization’s rules,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“The ‘shared future’ that the 2017 meeting is supposed to promote cannot be built without paying special attention to respect for the freedom to inform and to be informed. As well as a fundamental right, it is one of the more reliable ways to guarantee the region’s harmonious development.”
Forty university academics and researchers from all over the world have meanwhile just published a letter to leading Vietnamese officials urging them to release two women bloggers, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (also known as Me Nam), who were sentenced to nine and ten years in prison respectively this summer.
And more than 60 Australian parliamentarians signed a letter to Vietnam’s ambassador to Canberra on 26 October calling on the Vietnamese government to honour its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam has been party since 1982.
Thanks to this international campaign, the Vietnamese authorities may at last realize that it is in their own interest to promote the freedom to inform. If not, Vietnam will almost certainly remain near the bottom of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, in which it is currently ranked 175th out of 180 countries.