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Independent magazine continues to publish despite harassment

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders voices its full support for the writers and editors of "To Quoc" ( http://www.to-quoc.net ), an independent bimonthly that has managed to keep appearing in print and online despite a campaign of threats and harassment. One of its founders told Reporters Without Borders the threats were part of a "dangerous plan by the conservatives" before the Communist Party's next congress.

"The Vietnamese authorities are trying to block the emergence of an independent press but, despite threats and arrests, there are journalists and intellectuals who continue to produce quality publications without a licence," Reporters Without Borders said.

"We appeal to Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung to create the conditions for the emergence of a pluralist debate before the next congress, and to put a stop to the threats and violence against the staff of 'To Quoc,'" the press freedom organisation added.

Immediately after "To Quoc"'s first issue appeared on 15 September 2008, the people named as members of its editorial board began being harassed in all sorts of ways. One of them, army officer Dang Van Viet, asked for his name to be withdrawn from the board after getting threats.

The harassment was recently stepped up. Deputy editor Nguyen Thuong Long and writer Nguyen Phuong Anh were interrogated by the police at the start of February 2010. Police officers told the wife and children of former army colonel Pham Que Duong, "To Quoc"'s former publisher, a month ago that they would have serious problems finding work if they did not get him to stop collaborating with the magazine.

"To Quoc"'s founder, geologist Nguyen Thanh Giang, was recently summoned and interrogated several times in a police station, and was threatened with reprisals if he did not shut down his "illegal" publication.

Intruders threatened to splash urine and excrement inside physician Pham Hong Son's home on 23 March if he did not stop writing articles for "To Quoc".

Among the "To Quoc" collaborators who have been questioned and threatened in the past are dissident Vu Cao Quan, writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Pham Hong Duc.

One of the magazine's founders told Reporters Without Borders: "'To Quoc' aims to help the process of democratisation in Vietnam and to defend human rights, free expression and religious freedom, always using moderate language and reasonable arguments. That is why it is respected by Vietnamese democrats inside the country and abroad, and why it is also accepted more and more by party members. Some of those in authority think 'To Quoc' is helping peaceful evolution. But eliminating 'To Quoc' seems to be part of the conservative plan before the party's 11th congress."

Those responsible for producing the dissident publication "Tu Do Ngon Luan" have also been harassed by the police in recent months.

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