Internet essayist to be tried on charges of espionage

New York, June 16, 2003
—Internet essayist Pham Hong Son is scheduled to be tried this week on charges of espionage. Son has been in prison for more than a year for publishing an online article about democracy.

An official from the Hanoi People’s Court told The Associated Press that the trial is set for Wednesday, June 18.

Prior to his arrest on March 27, 2002, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted an essay titled, “What is Democracy?” (The article had first appeared on the U.S. State Department’s Web site.) Son had also previously written several essays promoting democracy and human rights, all of which appeared in Vietnamese-language online forums.

Son’s prosecution is part of a broader effort by the Vietnamese government to control the Internet, which has provided a place for independent journalists to publish news and opinion barred from the official media. In the last year and a half, the government has tightened already strict regulations governing Internet content and increased online surveillance. In mid-April, the official Vietnamese army newspaper Quan Doi Nhan Dan published an editorial arguing for additional controls on the Internet and more severe punishment of those who circulate “reactionary and depraved content” online.

Of the eight journalists currently imprisoned in Vietnam, five, including Son, were targeted for online publishing.