New York, NY, June 16, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release of Internet journalist Le Chi Quang, who served more than 19 months of a four-year jail term for posting essays critical of the government online. According to international news sources, Quang was released on Monday, June 14, from Nam Ha Prison in Ha Nam Province.
Quang is reported to be in poor health and suffering from kidney problems. It is unclear whether he will have to serve an additional three years of house arrest following his release, as was stipulated in his original sentence in November 2002.
The official Vietnam News Agency reported that Quang was released for good conduct and alleged that Quang admitted his "crimes" during his time in prison and promised not to repeat them. However, CPJ sources dispute this claim.
Security officials arrested Quang at an Internet café in the capital, Hanoi, on Feb. 21, 2002. In a document outlining the charges against him, the state prosecutor's office cited several articles by Quang as evidence of his anti-government activities, including essays criticizing official policies. Quang was charged under articles 88 and 92 of the Criminal Code, which ban the distribution of information that opposes the government.
Of the eight journalists who remain behind bars in Vietnam, four were imprisoned for writing or distributing their work online, according to CPJ research. These journalists are Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Hong Son, Pham Que Duong, and Nguyen Dan Que.
Efforts by authorities to crack down on online dissent continue. In March, Vietnam's Official Gazette announced tight regulations on providing and using the Internet in Internet cafés. It is also prohibited to use the Internet to "infringe on national security" or to store information classified as "state secrets" on Internet-connected computers.
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