Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s arrest of two bloggers, Nguyen Huu Vinh and his employee Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, for posting articles that allegedly contained “bad content and incorrect information that reduces prestige and trust in state agencies.”
They have been charged under article 258 of the penal code covering “abuse of democratic freedoms,” which carries sentences ranging from warnings to three years in prison, or seven years in “grave circumstances.”
“The arrest of two more bloggers, just two days after World Press Freedom Day, is a clear signal by the authorities, and shows that Vietnam is going further down the road of repression”, said Reporters Without Borders research chief Lucie Morillon.
“Penal code article 258 is often used to silence information providers when they start to irritate the authorities too much. We call for the immediate release of Vinh and Thuy and the 31 other bloggers who are still detained. It is time the government stopped persecuting individuals who use the freedom of expression and information guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Vinh, 57, worked for the police for 15 years before creating an independent news outlet called Sidewalk News Agency, in allusion to the official Vietnam News Agency. He created the Ba Sam website in 2007, initially as a place to post his articles, but it quickly became a broader news platform.
Since becoming well known under the pen name of Anh Ba Sam (Gossiper), he has had to keep changing his blog’s address to circumvent blocking. The subjects he covers include Chinese foreign policy towards Vietnam regarding the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands.
Civil Society Forum, a blog created in September 2013, was also closed without explanation yesterday, a day after it supported a joint appeal to the government to respect freedom of association. The Defend the Defenders website was meanwhile the target of two waves of cyber-attacks several days ago.
Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. It is also on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet because of its persecution of bloggers and cyber-dissidents.