Blogger detained in Vietnam amid clampdown on dissent

Bangkok, December 8, 2014–Nguyen Quang Lap was detained on Saturday by police in Ho Chi Minh City, the second blogger to be arrested in as many weeks in Vietnam, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the mounting crackdown on dissent and calls for the immediate release of all journalists held behind bars in Vietnam.

According to press reports, more than a dozen security officials raided and searched Lap’s home for several hours before taking him into police custody. Lap, an award-winning writer, was detained for posts viewed by officials as critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies and guidelines, according to reports citing his wife, Ho Thi Hong.

A statement by the Ministry of Public Security on Saturday said Lap was under investigation for “law-violating” activities, according to local news reports. The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the alleged crimes, reports said.

Lap’s blog often covered social and political issues in Vietnam, including critical commentary on sensitive bilateral relations with neighboring China, press reports said. The two countries are locked in a tense maritime dispute over territories in the South China Sea.

Lap’s blog included original writings and reposts of news and commentaries by other outlets and bloggers, news reports said. Agence France-Presse said his blog has more than one million hits and his Facebook page more than 15,000 followers.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of blogger Nguyen Quang Lap,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “The Vietnamese government should cease using legal threats to stifle independent bloggers and start upholding the press freedom guarantees enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution.”

Lap’s arrest comes amid a growing clampdown on online expression. On November 29, police arrested blogger Hong Le Tho under Article 258, a broad and vague anti-state provision that criminalizes “abusing democratic freedoms.” Bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, who were arrested in May under Article 258, are in detention while police investigate the charges.