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Dissidents mentioned in "Guardian" article flee country

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Hanoi, 27.10.2011 - Two Vietnamese dissidents - Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang - are under threat after collaborating with UK newspaper the Guardian on a story about the harassment of pro-democracy activists. Both have now fled the country for fear of reprisals. Dustin Roasa, the journalist who authored the article, was detained upon his recent return to Vietnam and was denied entry for 'security reasons.'

Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang were quoted in the newspaper's article titled "Vietnam cracks down on online critics ahead of Communist congress," published in January 2011, in which they revealed the severe measures taken by the government to maintain control over public opinion.

"Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang are part of a greater movement in Vietnam, whereby people are becoming increasingly vocal in challenging the authority of the government. Crackdowns on freedom of expression and police abductions are becoming more routine. The Vietnamese government must stop the use of heavy-handed intimidation tactics and vague national security laws to silence free speech and political opposition," said Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

In speaking with a foreign journalist, the dissidents placed both themselves and their families, some of whom have fled as well, under threat of reprisals. Nguyen Ngoc Quang was granted refugee status by the UN and Nguyen Ngoc Quang's case is still being processed.

The Vietnamese government has responded to the growing citizen movement which is taking root in the country by detaining numerous bloggers and writers for "propaganda against the Socialist state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code or on subversion charges using Article 79.

Several bloggers have recently been arrested, many of whom have trials which are currently pending. These include: Ho Duc Hoa, Dang Xuan Dieu, Paulus Le Son, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nong Hung Anh, and Ta Phong Tan, who are active contributors to prominent citizen journalist sites.

The case of online activist, human rights defender and lecturer Pham Minh Hoang, who was sentenced on August 10 2011 to three years in prison and an additional three years under house arrest, is a cause for concern for ARTICLE 19, who, along with 9 other free speech groups, petitioned the Vietnamese government for his release earlier this month. The trial date for his appeal is still unknown.
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