Pre-anniversary harassment aims to silence dissident writers

New York, April 25, 2005 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the recent official harassment of dissident writers Nguyen Thanh Giang and Tran Khue. In an apparent attempt to silence dissent before the 30th anniversary of the defeat of U.S. forces, articles in the state media denounced the two writers for their views, and a group of men calling themselves “veterans” harassed Giang at his home on April 4.

A series of articles run in the official publications Cong An (Public Security) and Phap Luat (Laws) denounced Giang for statements he has made in his writings and accused him of calling Vietnam’s role in the war “meaningless.” Giang, a geophysicist and pro-democracy writer, has said that these articles distort the meaning of a piece that he wrote which questioned the benefit to either side of the Vietnam War.

On April 4, three men who said that they belonged to a veterans’ group entered Giang’s house, according to an open letter to the government that Giang wrote on April 8. Holding copies of the official publications in which Giang was criticized, the men demanded to know why Giang had made statements against the war.

Authorities did not respond to a complaint Giang filed with the local police regarding the April 4 incident. On April 15, Phap Luat published another article denouncing him and ran it beside a letter purporting to be from the veterans’ group, which called for him to be “rid from social life.”

In a similar case of denunciation, a recent article in the state-run An Ninh The Gioi (World Security) magazine condemned writer Tran Khue as a reactionary. Khue was released from prison in July 2004 after serving a 19-month sentence on charges of “taking advantage of democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

CPJ sources have said that they believe the harassment of these two writers is an attempt to silence them before the official celebrations on April 30, which will commemorate the defeat of U.S. forces.

“The ongoing harassment and intimidation of writers who peacefully express their opinions is unacceptable,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The government’s previous persecution of Giang and Khue for their writing has been well documented. It is unfortunate that authorities seem to be using this week’s anniversary as a pretext for silencing critical views,” said Cooper.