Pham Viet Dao

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Police arrested Dao, a prominent political blogger and a former official at the Ministry of Culture, at his home in the capital of Hanoi. His house was searched and he was accused by the Ministry of Public Security of “abusing democratic freedoms,” an anti-state crime under Article 258 of the penal code, according to news reports.

Dao was arrested days after giving an interview to the BBC’s Vietnamese-language service in which he criticized a confidence vote, in which National Assembly members voted on the performance of ministers and officials, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. In the interview, Dao raised questions about the integrity of the vote as well as the government’s constitutional reform initiative.

Dao’s blog posts were frequently critical of government officials and policies. He also wrote about sensitive issues such as territorial disputes with China. His online journalism had several thousand regular followers at the time of his arrest, according to news reports.

Authorities did not initially disclose whether the anti-state accusations against Dao were related to his critical blogging.

CPJ has documented an intensifying crackdown on Vietnam’s independent bloggers, many of whom are detained on arbitrary anti-state charges. Blogging is the only avenue open to critical and independent reporters and writers in Vietnam, as many issues are not covered by the state-dominated mainstream media.

If found guilty of violating Article 258, Dao faces up to seven years in prison. He was being held in Hanoi while a government investigation was ongoing in late 2013.