Reporters Without Borders condemns the blogger Dinh Nhat Uy’s arrest in the southern province of Long An on 15 June on a charge of posting photos and articles on his personal blog that “distort the truth and defame state organizations.”
He is to be detained for three months while the authorities investigate his alleged “misuse of democratic freedoms to attack state interests.”
Uy is the elder brother of Dinh Nguyen Kha, a blogger who has been held since October 2012. A Long An court sentenced Kha on 16 May to eight years in prison followed by three years of house arrest.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Pham Viet Dao, a writer and blogger who had become increasingly critical of the government and senior officials in the blog he published under the pen-name of Phu Loc Tho.
A member of the Association of Vietnamese Writers and the Association of Vietnamese Journalists, Dao used to be the head of the Press and Publications Inspection Bureau.
He was arrested on 13 June in Hanoi under article 258 of the Socialist Republic’s criminal code, which punishes misuse of “democratic freedoms to attack state interests and the legitimate rights and interests of collectives and individuals” and carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
“This is the second time in less than a month that a blogger has been arrested under article 258, which – like article 88 – is sufficiently vague for the authorities to be able to use it to silence bloggers regarded as troublesome and overly critical,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“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 exact motive for Dao’s arrest is not yet known but a Vietnamese blogger preferring to remain anonymous said it might have been his criticism after the vote of confidence recently received by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
“The authorities regard Pham Viet Dao as a source of anti-state propaganda that misrepresents the Party’s policies and directives,” the blogger said.
Born in the north-central province of Nghe An in 1952, Dao studied in Romania, where he obtained a literature degree in 1974. After returning to Vietnam, he worked for the culture ministry’s cinema department. He headed the culture ministry’s Press and Publications Inspection Bureau from 1992 to 2007.
After retiring in June 2012, he dedicated much of his time to keeping several blogs, often posting articles of a political nature. He had been summoned for questioning by the police several times in the past and his blogs had been the target of three cyber-attacks.
When the prime minister issued Directive 7169 last year ordering the suppression of “reactionary” blogs, Dao called it “ridiculous” and said it would be impossible to put any pressure on blog platforms hosted outside Vietnam. The state media should instead try to provide the targeted blogs with “fair competition,” he suggested.
His phamvietdao3.blogspot.com blog was hacked into on 9 March, prompting him to start his phamvietdao4.blogspot.com, which was blocked yesterday.
Dao’s arrest was preceded by that of the blogger Truong Duy Nhat, who has been held in Hanoi under article 258 since 26 May.
The latest arrests bring to 35 the number of bloggers and netizens currently detained in Vietnam. On 23 May, an appeal court upheld jail sentences ranging from four to 13 years in prison for five bloggers – Ho Duc Hoa, Paulus Le Van Son, Nguyen Van Duyet, Thai Van Dung and Tran Minh Nhat.
Vietnam is ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.