The following statement was issued on 4 February 2014, in advance of Viet Nam's UPR process in Geneva.
ARTICLE 19 and PEN International will urge the international community to address the increasingly severe crackdown on free speech in Viet Nam 4-5 February at the United Nations in Geneva. Rather than improving, the human rights situation in Viet Nam has deteriorated markedly since 2009, when Viet Nam last underwent the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the process by which all UN Member States are assessed on a rolling basis by the Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
In Viet Nam, people are frequently subject to harassment and persecution for exercising their right to freedom of expression and speaking out against oppressive government policies. Dozens of Vietnamese writers, journalists and bloggers remain in prison simply for peacefully expressing their views, with many serving harsh prison sentences. The most recent crackdown on activists and writers resulted in several prevented from leaving the country to attend the UPR session which will take place on 5 February. One journalist who is barred is Mr Pham Chi Dung, who was due to conduct advocacy with PEN International and ARTICLE 19 at the UPR to draw attention to the parlous state of freedom of expression in the country.
"In preventing a well-known journalist from traveling to the UN, Viet Nam breaks the very promises it made in order to secure its seat on the UN Human Rights Council," said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee. "Preventing activists from travelling is a violation of their human rights, and this latest incident is part of a recent wave of arrests and harassment of dissident journalists and activists."
PEN International and ARTICLE 19 will be monitoring and campaigning in Geneva during Viet Nam's UPR, representing a coalition that also includes English PEN and Access.
Vietnamese civil society organisations and actors come under a variety of attacks online by pro-government actors. The Vietnamese authorities have engaged in both covert and open online surveillance and controls.
"The Vietnamese government must immediately cease its constant attack of the online sphere - the last space for Vietnamese civil society to actively engage within the country," said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. "At Viet Nam's UPR in Geneva, the international community must speak out for the voices that are being muffled thousands of miles away and call upon the Vietnamese authorities to follow through with its human rights commitments, which has been nothing beyond empty promises up until today," he added.
The Vietnamese authorities have engaged in both covert and open online surveillance and controls. Vietnamese civil society organisations and actors come under a variety of attacks online by pro-government actors.
In June 2013, the coalition submitted a shadow report to the UNHRC detailing violations by the Government of Viet Nam on free speech with recommendations to the authorities.
The recommendations in the shadow report include: release writers, journalists and bloggers currently in detention for reasons connected to their exercise of free speech; cease harassment of non-governmental organisation workers; promote internet freedom; and end all restrictions on the exercise of human rights online, including the arbitrary surveillance of Internet users in Viet Nam.