Amid crackdown, two blogs shuttered in Vietnam

New York, February 12, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Vietnamese government’s apparent shutdown of two politically oriented blogs, Blogosin and Bauxite Vietnam. The sites, both of which published critical perspectives on sensitive government issues, had been the targets of ongoing hacking, The Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse reported.

Bauxite Vietnam first came under anonymously launched “denial of service” attacks in December, according to news reports. After several attempts to resurrect the popular blog, the site’s administrators have moved it to internationally hosted Blogspot and WordPress platforms, where it is now accessible.

A CPJ source said Blogosin (Housekeeper) was hacked last week. The blog’s writer, Truong Huy San, who also uses the name Huy Duc, soon posted a message on a newly created home page to say that he would stop blogging to focus on personal matters.

AP reported that “both sites were generally restrained in tone, and neither had called for an end to Vietnam’s single-party system.” Vietnam maintains some of Asia’s strictest Internet controls; the apparent censorship comes amid a mounting crackdown by the authoritarian government, which has imprisoned at least 16 democracy activists in recent months.

“Vietnam’s government actively promotes Internet usage to modernize the economy, but at the same time cracks down on bloggers who post views critical of the government and its policies,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Bloggers like Truong Huy San and Nguyen Hue Chi are doing no more than exercising their rights to freedom of expression as enshrined in the country’s constitution. They should be allowed to write and post without fear.”

Truong Huy San, a former newspaper reporter with the state-run Saigon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) daily newspaper, was dismissed from his position at the paper in August 2009 after posting critical entries on his blog. The material included criticism of the former Soviet Union, a key ally and financial patron to Vietnam during the Cold War, and critiques of the government’s diplomatic warming toward long-time adversary China.

Nguyen Hue Chi, one of three bloggers who maintained Bauxite Vietnam, established the site to protest a China-led bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region. The project has been criticized because China has sent hundreds of its workers to the mine amid rising unemployment in Vietnam.

Last year, Vietnamese authorities temporarily detained at least four bloggers who had posted critical materials about Vietnam-China relations. The crackdown came after the Ministry of Information issued a directive in December 2008 that banned blogs from posting “reactionary information that damaged national security, social safety and the people’s solidarity” and undefined “state secrets.”

In May 2009, CPJ named Vietnam one of the 10 Worst Countries To Be a Blogger. The assessment was based on the government’s extension of traditional media restrictions to the blogosphere and its continued detention of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who was jailed in 2008 on trumped-up tax evasion charges.