Blogger harassed, briefly detained by police in Vietnam

Bangkok, July 6, 2012–Vietnamese authorities must stop their harassment of independent blogger and rights activist Huynh Thuc Vy and allow her to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Huynh was briefly detained by police and threatened with anti-state charges on Wednesday, according to news reports.

Huynh was taken into police custody in Ho Chi Minh City while meeting with security officials about an earlier arrest during a government crackdown on anti-China protests staged on July 1. According to a Radio Free Asia report, officials had blocked several other independent bloggers from attending and reporting on the event.

Huynh was transported in an unmarked police van to her home province of Quang Nam, where she was detained and interrogated by police before being released the next day, according to a BBC Vietnamese-language report. Police officials also raided her Ho Chi Minh City-based home and confiscated two laptop computers and mobile telephones, according to the BBC report.

Huynh said in a press interview after her release that she faces possible charges related to Article 79, legislation that allows for harsh prison sentences for vaguely defined “anti-state” activities. It was unclear if the potential charges were under formal investigation and related to either her blogging or protest activities.

Huynh, who recently met with a CPJ representative in Ho Chi Minh City, began writing in 2008 and maintains a blog that focuses on human rights-related issues. She said she was previously fined 85 million dong for “administrative violations” for using the Internet to send perceived sensitive information abroad.

In November 2011, more than 100 police officials raided Huynh’s home and confiscated a camera, computer, and articles she had written with her father, who was previously imprisoned for 10 years for his writings on Vietnamese refugees, Huynh told CPJ. Huynh and her father were fined an additional 270 million dong in December for anti-state violations related to their blog postings, she said.

“The harassment of Huynh Thuc Vy illustrates the government’s ongoing hostility toward Vietnam’s independent bloggers and commentators,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “If authorities want to show the world that Vietnam has turned the page on its past repressive ways, they should desist from such crude intimidation and allow citizens to speak, write, and report without fear of reprisal.”

Huynh’s harassment comes amid an intensifying crackdown on independent bloggers and online activists in Vietnam. A draft decree pending executive approval will make it illegal for bloggers and Internet users to post materials online anonymously. An earlier decree promulgated in 2011 brought bloggers under many of the same legal restrictions used to censor and control the mainstream media.

Vietnam was holding nine journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its worldwide census of imprisoned journalists on December 1, 2011.

  • For more analysis and data on Vietnam, see CPJ’s Vietnam page here.