In a recent case, security officers at Noi Bai international airport stopped Vu Quoc Ngu, the editor of the Defend The Defenders human rights website, from boarding a flight to Bangkok on 26 September. They cited Decree No. 136 and “national security” as their grounds from preventing him from leaving the country.
“The Vietnamese government tries by all possible means to isolate journalists and bloggers from the rest of the world,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We urge the international community not to ignore these serious violations of the fundamental freedoms of journalists and human rights defenders in Vietnam.”
The authorities have repeatedly prevented Ngu from travelling abroad during the past two years, including in July 2015 when he was invited to attend a cyber-security seminar organized by RSF in Bangkok. He was also barred from attending meetings with foreign diplomats including US assistant secretary of state Tom Malinowski during President Barack Obama’s 23-25 May visit to Vietnam.
Fired for quoting exiled blogger
The Communist Party government keeps a close control on the media in what is another form of isolation affecting many bloggers and journalists.
The latest victims include Nguyen Nhu Phong, the editor of the state-owned PetroTimes news website, who was fired and stripped of his press card for publishing extracts from an interview with Bui Than Hieu, a exiled dissident blogger also known as Wind Trader.
On 3 October, the ministry of information and communication said Phong had been sanctioned “for committing wrongdoing in press activities.” The authorities added that the website had also been closed for three months without explaining the “power cut” it suffered after the interview was published.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The Communist Party runs the entire country and exercises a draconian level of control at all levels of the administration and society.