Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao and Dinh Nhat Uy are three prominent bloggers who have been arrested in Vietnam in less than a month's time. All are accused of spreading anti-state propaganda.
Truong Duy Nhat was arrested May 26 in Danang. Pham Viet Dao was detained in Hanoi on June 13. On June 15, Dinh Nhat Uy was taken into police custody in Long An province.
Vietnam has imprisoned 46 bloggers and democracy activists in 2013. The high number of arrests of hardline government critics or individuals that the government sees as “enemies of the state” could be related to the recently concluded confidence vote in the National Assembly.
The Prime Minister survived the country’s first-ever confidence vote but 30 percent of the National Assembly members voted against him.
Human rights groups and press freedom advocates immediately denounced the arrests. Many suspect that authorities are working to silence activists and dissident journalists who have been actively exposing corruption scandals involving top government officials.
Reporters without Borders warned that Vietnam could expect a global backlash if persecution of news providers is to continue:
We warn the authorities against any increase in the persecution of news providers. After the European Parliament’s recent resolutions condemning Vietnam’s arrests of bloggers and the international community’s calls for more freedom of information and expression in Vietnam, it should be clear that maintaining the policy of terror against bloggers and cyber-dissidents will only sideline the country internationally, including within intergovernmental mechanisms.
The abuses suffered by bloggers highlight the need to review some of the laws which the government of Vietnam has been using to silence its critics.
Article 88 of the Criminal Code which bans anti-state propaganda is often used to detain individuals who oppose the government. Article 258 of the Criminal Code punishes misuse of “democratic freedoms to attack state interests and the legitimate rights and interests of collectives and individuals” and carries a sentence of seven years in prison. The Prime Minister also issued a directive last year that ordered a crackdown on “reactionary” blogs.
Vague provisions in the law have allowed authorities to make some arbitrary arrests. For example, Dinh Nhat Uy is accused of posting “erroneous and slanderous” information about the communist government. Further, he allegedly posted photos and articles on his blog that “distort the truth and defame state organizations.”
A month ago, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh—who blogs as Me Nam (Mother Mushroom)–was briefly detained in Khanh Hoa province for handing out copies of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was reportedly arrested because she did not have a proper permit for distributing such materials.
Truong Duy Nhat, who blogs at “Another Viewpoint”, asserted that he is neither a criminal nor a reactionary:
I am neither a criminal nor a reactionary. There is nothing propagandistic or reactionary about the articles I post on ‘Another point of view.’ The police investigations, summonses and interrogations should be targeting reactionaries, anti-patriots and the interest groups gathering in banks, these insects who devour the people.
Regardless of their political opinions or critiques of the government, bloggers’ universal human right to freedom of expression should be upheld in Vietnam. Global Voices Advocacy will continue to follow these stories as they unfold.