Vietnam: Writer held incommunicado

New York, July 22, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the detention of writer Nguyen Vu Binh, who is currently being held incommunicado.

At around 9 a.m. on July 20, police officers picked up Binh from his home in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, and brought him to the local precinct. Officers also searched his computer, read his e-mails, and printed out personal documents, according to the Democracy Club for Vietnam, an organization based in both California and Hanoi.

After interrogating Binh, authorities allowed him to return home that evening. However, on the morning of July 21, police detained him again. His current whereabouts is unknown.

The Vietnamese government has not offered any public explanation for Binh’s arrest, although it comes amid escalating harassment of dissidents and writers in the country. [See CPJ’s protest letter of July 2]

On July 6, 2002, Binh and 16 other writers, retired government officials, and relatives of detained journalists wrote an open letter addressed to the country’s top leaders. The letter supported political reforms and called for the release of several political prisoners, including Pham Hong Son and Le Chi Quang, who were both detained earlier this year because of writings they published on the Internet.

(Because of the Vietnamese government’s extraordinarily tight control over news and information circulated within the country, CPJ classifies open letters, pamphlets, and other forms of political speech in Vietnam as journalism.)

Meanwhile on July 23, the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus will host a briefing on freedom of expression in Vietnam, during which written testimony from Binh will be presented.

“Nguyen Vu Binh’s arrest violates both Vietnam’s own constitution and international law,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We demand his immediate and unconditional release.”

Binh is a former journalist who worked for almost 10 years at Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), an official publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In January 2001, he left his position there after applying to form an independent opposition party called the Liberal Democratic Party.

Since then, Binh has written several articles calling for political reforms and criticizing current government policy. In response, authorities have repeatedly harassed and interrogated him. His home phone line has been cut since September 2001, when authorities briefly detained him for helping to create an independent anti-corruption organization.

In April 2002, overseas Vietnamese democracy activists reported that Binh was in danger of arrest after authorities increased surveillance over him.