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Tackling Vietnam's relentless persecution of bloggers

UPDATE: Accused of committing anti-state activities, student activist and blogger Phan Kim Khanh was sentenced to six years in jail and another four years on probation under Article 88 of Penal Code.

A Vietnamese man logs on to blog on his iPad in Hanoi, 27 September 2012
A Vietnamese man logs on to blog on his iPad in Hanoi, 27 September 2012

AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen

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As another citizen-journalist, Phan Kim Khanh, awaits trial on 25 October on a charge with a possible 20-year jail sentence, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins nine other human rights groups in launching #StopTheCrackdownVN, a campaign against the current unprecedented crackdown on the freedom to inform in Vietnam.

Aged 24, Phan Kim Khanh has been jailed for the past six months without being able to receive a visit from his family. He was a senior student at the Faculty of International Studies at Thai Nguyen University in northern Vietnam until arrested on 21 March 2017 on a charge of "anti-state propaganda" under article 88 of the penal code.

His crime was to have managed two blogs since 2015, Tuan Viet Nam (Vietnam Week) and Bao Tham Nhung (Corruption Newspaper), for which he created a Facebook page. He also managed two other Facebook accounts, Tuan Bao Viet Nam (Vietnam Weekly) and Dan Chu TV (Democracy TV), and two YouTube channels, Viet Bao TV and Vietnam Online.

Bui Hieu Vo, a 55-year-old blogger, was arrested four days before Khanh. Yet another blogger, Dao Quang Thuc, was arrested on 5 October. He is charged under article 79 of the penal code with "activities aimed at overthrowing the government."

"In a country where the government dictates the editorial policies of the state media, the information provided by Khanh, Vo and Thuc was clearly in the public interest," said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.
"Trying to investigate corruption or the environment does not mean you are seeking to overthrow the government. The Communist Party's current Politburo needs to realize that by prosecuting its citizens in this iniquitous manner, Vietnam is losing all credibility, both in civil society's eyes and on the international stage."

The United Nations issued a firm condemnation of Vietnam three months ago for failing to respect fundamental rights, including the right to inform. Eyes will turn back to Vietnam when the central city of Danang hosts an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

RSF is therefore participating in a coalition with nine other international and Vietnamese human rights organizations that are this week launching #StopTheCrackdownVN, a campaign to end the Vietnamese regime's persecution of those who try to use the right to inform.

According to RSF's tally, around 25 bloggers and citizen-journalists are currently detained. This unprecedented crackdown on news and information providers began a year ago with the arrest on 10 October of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a woman who blogged under the name of Me Nam (Mother Mushroom).

After more than six months in pre-trial detention, Quynh was sentenced on 29 June to ten years in prison under 88 of the penal code. She is in poor health, with atrophying arm and leg muscles, according to her mother, who has called for renewed international pressure on Vietnam.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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