September 25, 2009
His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet Suite 435
President of the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam
C/o the Permanent Mission of Vietnam
866 United Nations
Via facsimile: (212)-644-5732
Dear Mr. President:
It has been nearly three years since Vietnam was accepted into the World
Trade Organization and your government announced its intention to play a more
prominent role in international organizations and multilateral forums. Your participation
in this week’s United Nations General Assembly and your country’s scheduled
assumption next year of the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) are testament to Vietnam’s more engaged approach to
more open diplomacy has not translated into substantive democratic reforms at
home, including in the areas of press and Internet freedom. The Committee to
Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that defends press
freedom worldwide, was alarmed by your government’s recent crackdown on online
journalists and political bloggers, many of whom were detained and interrogated
for their reporting.
August 28, your security forces arrested journalist Pham Doan Trang, a reporter
with the popular online news site VietnamNet, for her reporting on
territorial disputes between your country and China. Internet access to several
of her stories on that topic, which the state-dominated and highly censored
mainstream media have shied from reporting, was blocked by your government soon
after her arrest.
same week police arrested and detained political blogger Bui Thanh Hieu, who
wrote under the pen name Nguoi Buon Gio, which in English translates to “Wind
Trader.” He, too, had written critical commentaries about Vietnam-China
relations, as well as your government’s handling of land disputes with the
Catholic Church. Our sources said that police confiscated his computers and
other personal belongings during the late-night raid on his house.
Huy San, a newspaper reporter who under the pen name Huy Duc maintained a
popular blog known as Osin, was dismissed on August 24 from the
government-run Saigon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) soon after he had
published criticism of the former Soviet Union’s
crimes against humanity. It was lost on few observers that the Soviet Union was a key ally to your Communist Party-run
government during the Cold War.
part of your government’s repressive crackdown on Internet freedom, at least
two other political bloggers, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who wrote as “Me Nam,” or
Mother Mushroom, and another known simply as Sphinx, were temporarily detained
and interrogated for their postings related to Vietnam-China relations. While
all of the above named journalists have since been released, their arrests have
underscored your government’s reputation as one of the world’s worst violators
of Internet freedom.
this year CPJ ranked Vietnam
as one of the 10 worst places in the world to be a blogger. Our assessment
stemmed in part from the jailing last year of popular blogger Nguyen Van Hai,
who wrote under the name Dieu Cay, which translates to “Peasant’s Pipe”
in English. Hai, who had also raised critical questions about your country’s relations
was sentenced to 30 months in prison on what CPJ considers trumped-up tax
evasion charges. Vietnam’s
poor ranking was also based on your government’s creation last October of the
new Administration Agency for Radio, Television and Electronics Information, a
state unit tasked specifically with monitoring the Internet for postings that
could be considered critical of your government’s policies. We are currently
investigating what role the new agency may have had in your recent crackdown.
President, your government had indicated it would show greater respect for
basic human rights in your negotiations with the World Trade Organization that
finally facilitated your entry into the WTO. Three years later, in regard to
respecting and promoting greater press freedom, it is plain to see that your
government has not upheld its end of the bargain.
has increasingly found its place on the world stage, but its anti-democratic
tendencies have cast it more as an authoritarian onlooker than reliable
participant. One way to change that distinction and improve your country’s
image in the international community would be through a new commitment to press
and Internet freedom.
Thank you for your attention to this letter. We
look forward to your reply.