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Online journalist and blogger arrested over China references

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of blogger Bui Thanh Hieu on 27 August 2009 and online journalist Pham Doan Trang on 28 August 2009 for criticising the ruling Communist Party's policies towards China. Both are being held by the police.

"We deplore the regime's persecution of its critics," Reporters Without Borders said. "Freedom of expression has contracted in recent months as a result of governmental paranoia about issues concerning relations with China. We call for the rapid release of Hieu and Trang as the criticisms they voiced posed absolutely no threat to national security and were part of their fundamental right to free expression."

Trang edits Tuan Vietnam, an online weekly that is a component of Vietnamnet, the country's most popular news website. In a 27 July article, she criticised China's role during Vietnam's partition in 1954. In the past, she has condemned China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Hieu, who writes under the name of Nguoi Buon Gio in his blog ( http://nguoibuongio.multiply.com/ ), was arrested in connection with "national security" issues, said a relative who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals. His blog entries during the past two months had criticised the Communist Party of Vietnam's policies towards China and had referred to the land conflict between the government and the Catholic Church.

He also wrote about a bauxite mining project in the central highlands and the criticism it has received from intellectuals, scientists and military officers because of the threat it poses to the environment. He had already been questioned several times about his political activities since taking part in an "anti-Chinese" demonstration last year.

The government announced in August that it would prosecute some or all of the 27 democracy activists arrested in the course of the previous few months. Vietnam is one of the 12 countries that Reporters Without Borders has identified as "Enemies of the Internet" and was ranked 168th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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