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Vietnam

Key Developments

» Authorities harass and imprison independent bloggers.

» New decree requires Internet companies to reveal identity of their users.

The Vietnam government's campaign of repression against online journalists intensified this year. Sixteen of the 18 journalists behind bars had published blogs or contributed to online news publications, according to CPJ's annual prison census conducted December 1. In January, a group of five independent bloggers were sentenced to long prison terms and years of house arrest on anti-state charges related to their journalism. Three other bloggers, Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao, and Dinh Nhat Uy, were detained on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms," a criminal offense punishable by seven years' imprisonment under the penal code. In October, Uy was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence and one year of house arrest on the charges, the first time a blogger was convicted specifically for using Facebook. Authorities used at least three vague laws to harass and jail journalists. A new decree further restricted online freedoms, barring bloggers from linking to foreign news sites, among other provisions. The law also aimed to make global Internet companies complicit in the government's online crackdown by requiring them to reveal the identity of any of their services' users perceived to be in violation of Vietnamese law.



  • 3

    Anti-state laws
  • 18

    Jailed journalists
  • 15

    Months in prison
  • 39.5%

    Internet penetration rate
 

Authorities regularly used three vague and arbitrary anti-state laws--Articles 79, 88, and 258 of the penal code--to harass and imprison journalists, according to CPJ research. Lawyers have argued that the laws contradict broad guarantees of freedom of expression that are enshrined in Vietnam's constitution.


Vague anti-state laws:

Article 79

bans, without defining, activities aimed at overthrowing the government. Maximum penalties for violations include life imprisonment and capital punishment.

Article 88

bars conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Maximum penalties include 20 years' imprisonment.

Article 258

bans abusing democratic freedoms, including freedom of the press, to infringe upon the interests of the state, organizations, and citizens. Maximum penalties include seven years' imprisonment.
 

Vietnam ranked as the fifth worst jailer of journalists in the world, according to CPJ's 2013 prison census. The number of imprisoned Vietnamese journalists has steadily climbed as authorities continued to crack down on Internet freedoms.

Jailed in Vietnam over time:
 

A court on October 29, 2013, handed blogger Dinh Nhat Uy a 15-month suspended prison term and one year of house arrest on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms," according to news reports. His sentencing represented the first time a blogger was sentenced specifically for using Facebook.

Authorities arrested Uy and two other bloggers within one month in 2013, signaling the country's intensifying crackdown on free expression.


Three bloggers in one month:

May 26, 2013:

Truong Duy Nhat was arrested and charged with "abusing democratic freedoms," a charge that carries up to seven years in prison. Nhat maintained a personal blog that frequently criticized the Communist Party-led government. An investigation was continuing in late 2013.

June 13, 2013:

Pham Viet Dao, a prominent political blogger, was arrested at his home and accused of "abusing democratic freedoms." Dao maintained a blog that was often critical of government officials and policies. He faces up to seven years in prison. An investigation into him was continuing in late 2013.

June 15, 2013:

Dinh Nhat Uy was arrested for "compiling and publishing distorted and untrue articles and pictures on his blog, tarnishing the prestige of state bodies," according to state-run news reports. Computers, phones, flash drives, books, and laptops were confiscated from his home, reports said. 
 

At least 39.5 percent of Vietnamese citizens have access to the Internet, according to the most recent data by the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU. While authorities have attempted to control online journalism through various restrictive laws and measures, the growing Internet has given rise to a vibrant and vocal blogosphere in the country.

Internet penetration over time, according to the ITU:



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