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Bloggers and Netizens behind bars: Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam
Vietnam has one of the fastest growing Internet populations in Asia. Today, over 31 million people use the Internet – more than one third of the population – compared with 2 millions in 2000. Internet penetration is especially high amongst the young people, reaching up to 95 percent amongst those aged 15-22 in large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Social networks are also widely popular, and 80 percent of young Vietnamese have at least one social network account.
The Vietnamese government has actively promoted the expansion of Internet access in order to support economic development. At the same time, however, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) perceives free access to the Internet as a potential threat to its political monopoly. As a result, the government has intensified online censorship and controls, adopted new restrictive legislations and subjected Internet users to arrest, harassment and imprisonment. In December 2012, Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng ordered Security forces to step up the fight against “hostile forces” using the Internet to “spread propaganda which threatens our national security and oppose the Communist Party and the state”.
Amongst the prime targets of government repression are the blogs. Millions of blogs have sprung up recently, and despite government restrictions, the “blogosphere” is vibrant and diversified. In Vietnam’s one-party system, blogs provide a source of independent news and comment that is impossible in the state-controlled media. They also provide a platform for civic activism and a new form of “citizens’ journalism”. Dissidents, human rights defenders and online journalists increasingly resort to the blogs to voice their political opinions, expose corruption, and draw attention to land-grabbing and other official abuses of power. With the blogs, a culture of protest is gradually emerging in Vietnam.
At the same time, bloggers and netizens in Vietnam face long-standing draconian restrictive legislations, policies and practices, while the government has intensified its crackdown on freedom of expression, both online and offline. In September 2012, the assault on Internet freedom reached a new height when the Vietnamese prime minister himself issued an order to punish criticisms of the Communist Party and the government, targeting by name three dissident blogs. The same month, prominent bloggers Nguyễn Văn Hải Điếu Cày, Ms. Tạ Phong Tần and Phan Thanh Hai, founders of the Club of Free Journalists, stood trial for using the Internet to advocate human rights and democratic reforms. They received sentences ranging from four to twelve years.
In this report, based on international human rights law, statistics from the Vietnamese official press and articles by Vietnamese bloggers and netizens, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights seek to echo voices inside Vietnam who are calling for the respect of human rights. We also make concrete recommendations to the Vietnamese government and the international community for the respect and promotion of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, both online and offline in Vietnam.
Read the Report on FIDH website: PDF
Source : FIDH