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Prominent Internet writer in detention, charged with disseminating information "harmful to the state"

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is CPJ press release:

Prominent Internet writer detained in Vietnam

New York, April 25, 2007 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about the recent arrest of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, an award-winning journalist and writer. Thuy was taken into custody Saturday at her residence, where she was already being held under house arrest, according to news reports. She was charged with violating Article 88 of Vietnam's criminal code, which prohibits the dissemination of information that authorities deem harmful to the state.

Thuy had posted a number of Internet essays calling for greater democracy, according to people familiar with her writings. Authorities have not indicated which of her articles they perceived to be in violation of the criminal code. If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in jail.

According to CPJ research, at least three Vietnamese writers are currently behind bars on antistate charges related to material they posted online.

Article 69 of Vietnam's constitution broadly guarantees press freedom, stating that citizens "shall enjoy freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, [and] the right to be informed, the right to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations in accordance within the provisions of the law."

According to CPJ research, conditions had improved for journalists and pro-democracy activists during Vietnam's run-up to joining the World Trade Organization, which it formally acceded to on January 11. Since then, Vietnamese authorities have resumed their suppression of political opposition groups, sentencing a number of prominent dissidents to long prison terms.

"Authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Tran Khai Thanh Thuy," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. "The international community must not allow the Vietnamese government to use journalists as negotiating pawns. We call on WTO members to hold Vietnam to account for this cynical manipulation."

According to news reports, police also accused Thuy of being a member of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy group that last year circulated a petition calling for a transition to democracy. The authorities also accused her of illegally organizing a trade union and supporting a dissident human rights commission.

In February, Thuy was awarded a Hellman-Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch; the awards are given annually to dissident writers who display of courage in the face of political persecution.

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