RSF and Viet Tan's call for improved press freedom
By Leigh Burke | Project Leader
The dismal record of press freedom in Vietnam remains a high priority for Reporters Without Borders and for our human rights partners including Viet Tan. In February, there was an opportunity for a renewed call and increased attention to freedom of information in Vietnam.
In advance of President Barack Obama's hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit on February 15 and 16 in California, Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders and Duy Hoang, US-based leader of Viet Tan published an op-ed in the Huffington Post calling for serious human rights improvements. Since the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), RSF and Viet Tan have called for a stronger focus on human rights violations and improved freedom of information as the agreement is implemented.
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski also declared that the TPP provided a significant opportunity to compel Hanoi to release bloggers in prison and cease the harassment of cyber activists and dissidents. RSF is hopeful that Vietnam's overall positions on freedom of information will improve as they implement TPP policies.
Read the attached op-ed and follow the progress of Vietnam and their human rights/press freedom challenges.
After three years in prison on a charge of anti-state propoganda, Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan was released in September and is now in exile in the United States. In September 2012, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for criticizing corruption and human rights violations on her blog "Cong Ly y Su that" (Justice and Truth). She was met at the Los Angeles airport by Nguyen Van Hai, also known by his blog name Dieu Cay, who was released from his prison sentence in October 2014. The two are co-founders of the Free Journalists Club.
Reporters Without Borders is calling for the immediate release of 15 additional citizen-journalists who are currently imprisoned in Vietnam. The names of these citizen-journalists are listed in the attached RSF press release. Vietnam is currently the largest prison for bloggers and online information activities. Please sign the petition attached, support our efforts and help free these courageous supporters of press freedom!
Thank you again to all the supporters who have so generously helped us in the past. Your encouragement is of great value to them and to us as we keep these bloggers in the spotlight and increase pressure for their release.
Reporters Without Borders sent the following letter to US secretary of state John Kerry before his official visit to Hanoi for the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. The letter asks him to press the Vietnamese government to free all imprisoned journalists and bloggers and to stop hounding and attacking news and information providers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520
Washington DC, August 4, 2015
Dear Secretary of State Kerry,
As you are about to take a three-day official visit to Hanoi on August 6-8 to discuss bilateral and regional issues, as well as to attend the 20th anniversary of the establishment of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations, Reporters Without Borders would like to share with you its concerns about freedom of information in Vietnam, ranked 175th out of 180 countries in our 2015 World Press Freedom Index. We would also like to ask you to raise the crucial issue of freedom of information and of the press during your talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
Vietnam is still one of the biggest prisons for journalists and citizen journalists in the world, with two journalists and twenty-six citizen journalists currently behind bars. Three bloggers, Le Thi Phuong Anh, Do Nam Trung and Pham Minh Vu, were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison on February 12, 2015 for “abusing democratic freedoms.” They were arrested for using their Facebook accounts to “disseminate content that incited and led to anti-state demonstrations,” according to the Court. These “crimes” were committed on May 15 2014, while the bloggers were covering an anti-Chinese demonstration by South China Sea oil rig workers. The offending content consisted of 157 Facebook posts of articles and photos of the demonstration which “insulted the prestige of the state and Communist Party and undermined the trust of the people, especially workers, students and young people, in the Party.”
The same argument was used to strip the Newspaper Nguoi Cao Tuoi (Elderly People) of its license in January of this year. Proceedings were initiated against its editor Kim Quoc Hoa, who in the past has received threats from the highest levels of government in connection with his coverage of corruption among senior officials.
Cases of harassment against journalists have also continued in Vietnam, particularly during the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. On April 30, 2015, the independent journalist Pham Chi Dung and his family were targeted by Vietnamese police at his Ho Chi Minh City home. Dung, who is on Reporters Without Borders’ list of “information heroes”, complained to local Communist Party secretary Le Thanh Hai and Ho Chi Minh City police chief Nguyen Chi Thanh about the harassment and restrictions on free movement he had been subjected to for months. Dung promotes media freedom and constantly criticizes the party’s control of the media, for which he used to work. His case is by no means isolated; many citizen journalists and bloggers were placed under close surveillance, subjected to intimidation and in some cases even beaten. House arrest measures were reinforced and independent reporters were prevented from covering anniversary celebrations and demonstrations. And the crackdown on freedom of the press and of expression doesn’t stop there. The events surrounding the anniversary of the end of the war only highlight a general trend of repression, imprisonment, violence and intimidation in Vietnam.
At the moment the United States is celebrating 20 years of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, we ask you to urge the Vietnamese government:
to respect freedom of information and of the press
to release all journalists and netizens in jail
to stop systematic harassment and physical aggressions of bloggers, cyber activists, and their relatives
and to repeal repressive legislation such as articles 88, 79, and 258 of the Criminal Codes, under which numerous citizen journalists and bloggers have been jailed.
As an important US partner in trade and a negotiating member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Vietnam must fulfill its obligations to ensure that journalists and citizen journalists are able to do their job and express themselves freely without fear of physical attacks or imprisonment. The United States cannot ignore that the TPP is of utmost importance for Vietnam and that once concluded, it will significantly boost the national economy. As such a desirable treaty for Vietnam, the TPP can and should be a tool to promote human rights, good governance, freedom of information and freedom of speech, and not just an instrument to create a liberal regional trade network.
I thank you in advance, Secretary Kerry, for the attention you give to this letter.
Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you can recieve an email when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports without donating.