first_img Organisation RSF_en Vietnam News RSF laureates support jailed Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang News The Internet is not very widespread and remains under the control of the ruling Communist Party. Cyber-dissidents are arrested, politically and culturally “incorrect” websites are blocked and personal e-mail is monitored. The government seems to be closely following China’s example. Government information siteRadio Free Asia April 22, 2021 Find out more April 27, 2021 Find out more VietnamAsia – Pacific VietnamAsia – Pacific Follow the news on Vietnam When the younger-generation Nong Duc Manh took over the Communist Party leadership in April 2001, hopes were raised for greater media freedom and growth of the Internet. But this has not happened and Vietnam remains one of the world’s most repressive countries where the Internet is concerned. One of the main blocks to its growth is the high cost of communications. However, more and more people in universities are logging on and cybercafés are springing up everywhere.The biggest of the five public or part publicly-owned ISPs, Vietnam Data Communications (VDC), catering to nearly a third of all Internet users, is controlled by the posts and telecommunications ministry (DGPT). The government blocks access to websites it considers politically and morally “dangerous,” including foreign news sites and those of human rights organisations set up by Vietnamese abroad. VDC monitors what sites its customers visit.Opposition groups say the government even regularly hacks into “undesirable” sites. The Hoahao spiritual movement, for example, says the Vietnamese embassy in Singapore sends viruses by e-mail to the movement’s followers and to political opponents abroad.But the government also uses the Internet for propaganda purposes. The proceedings of the 9th Communist Party Congress in April 2001 were reported in several languages on the website of the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA). Internet access points were set up around the country so the population could follow the congress. The party also advertises its doctrines on its own website, which opened in 2001.The prime minister announced in August 2001 that the government would allow new ISPs to operate, including privately-owned ones. But this has not yet happened. The government has forbidden use of the Internet for political opposition, for actions against national sovereignty and security and violations of morality or the law.Deputy culture and information minister Nguyen Khac Hai ordered police on 8 January 2002 to seize and destroy any publication not authorised by the government. The BBC reported that photocopies of printouts from the dissident news website Dialogue were among the targets.On 5 August 2002, the DGPT asked the authorities in the country’s 61 provinces to step up monitoring and inspection of cybercafés. The government called for punishment of those making “harmful use” of the Internet. Two days later, the culture and information ministry suspended the website TTVNonline.com because it did not have proper authorisation to operate and was putting out news that violated the press law and “twisted the truth.”The ministry refused to say what this news was, but official sources said the target was the site’s discussion group, where topics such as territory ceded to China in December 1999, political reforms and corruption in the Communist Party were being discussed. The website was voted by the specialist press in 2001 as the best one for young people. On 16 August 2002, Phan An Sa, deputy chief inspector at the culture and information ministry, called for access to subversive and pornographic material on the Internet to be blocked. He listed five kinds of Internet use he said was harmful to national security, including exchanges of anti-government material and use of the Internet to defraud people. He added that the authorities should fine young people and train them better how to use the Internet. Most Vietnamese users are aged between 14 and 24.In early 2003, Phan announced new laws would be passed to monitor Internet content more closely. Sites run from Vietnam would have to have a licence and inform the authorities whenever they changed the content of the site. He said Internet operators, especially ISPs and cybercafé owners, should be responsible for their customers’ messages. He told a foreign journalist in January 2003 that just as restaurant owners had to ensure their food contained nothing harmful, cybercafé owners were not allowed to serve poison to their young customers.The government newspaper Thoi bao Kinh te Vietnam (Vietnam Economic Times) said on 26 June that the government planned to set up a national monitoring system to ensure that cybercafé users did not see “politically or morally dangerous” websites. It said the culture and information ministry had reported “very many” violations of the law about spreading subversive material and publishing state secrets. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai ordered police on 24 June to inspect the country’s 4,000 cybercafés.Five cyber-dissidents arrested in 13 monthsLe Chi Quang, a 31-year-old computer teacher and law graduate, was arrested on 21 February 2002 in a Hanoi cybercafé and charged with sending “dangerous” information abroad. Police seized computer equipment and papers from his home and he was sent to the B-14 prison camp near Hanoi. He was arrested after posting on the Internet a very detailed article he wrote called “Beware of the empire to the north,” about the circumstances of the government’s signing of border agreements with China in 1999. The article was very widely distributed among Vietnamese abroad.He was sentenced to four years in prison on 8 November and three years of house arrest after that for “opposing the government of the socialist republic of Vietnam” under article 88 of the criminal code banning the distribution of anti-government material. During his three-hour trial, the rights of the defence were flouted and the foreign media were not allowed to attend. Only his parents were allowed to be present. His mother said he admitted posting the article but rejected the government’s accusation and that the family would appeal against the sentence. He appeared to be physically very week and his face was swollen. Friends said he had kidney problems and that the prison authorities had refused him treatment. Nearly 100 people, including dissidents, demonstrated outside the courthouse and police arrested one of them.Police searched the house in Ho Chi Minh City of Tran Khue, a literature teacher and founder of an anti-corruption group, on 8 March 2002 and confiscated his computer, printer, camera, mobile phones and papers. Two days later, he was put under house arrest. He had earlier posted on the Internet a letter he had written to Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the eve of an official visit to Vietnam demanding that he revise some clauses of the border agreements. In August 2001, Tran Khue had been arrested and escorted home when he was found near the border with China investigating the situation there.Members of the special P4-A25 police unit went to the Hanoi home of Dr. Pham Hong Son, the local representative of a foreign pharmaceutical company, on 25 March and took him in for questioning about his translation of articles on the website of the US embassy in Vietnam. Shortly afterwards, eight members of the police unit searched his home and took away computer material and personal papers. He returned to the police the next day to get them back but was turned away. A day later, he posted online an open letter protesting against the illegal search and confiscation of his property. Two days after that, on 29 March, his family reported he had vanished. His mother was not allowed to visit him in prison until 15 April.The family were told he had been arrested for translating and posting online an article from the US embassy website called “What is democracy?” He has also written many articles himself, such as “Promoting democracy: a key part of the new world order” and “Sovereignty and human rights: the search for reconciliation,” which have appeared on pro-democracy online forums Danchu.net and Ykien.net. On 29 April, he was reportedly at the B-14 prison camp. His wife Ha Thuy Vu and their two sons were forced to leave their home after harassment and threats. In July, the interior ministry said the cyber-dissident would stay in prison.Police searched the house of journalist Nguyen Vu Binh on 25 September, seized his personal belongings and took him to the B14 prison camp. He wrote for the magazine section of the Communist Party newspaper Tap Chi Cong San but was dismissed in January 2001 for trying to set up an independent political party. Since then, he has written articles criticising the government. He had been briefly arrested on 19 July for sending a written report to a human rights conference in Washington DC. He was freed the next day but put under house arrest and closely watched by police, who he had to report to every day. In August, along with 20 other writers and dissidents, he signed a petition to the government calling for reform of the judiciary and creation of an independent anti-corruption squad. The authorities have not said why he was arrested this time, but it may have been for posting online in August a critical article he wrote about the sensitive topic of border agreements signed with China. Cyber-dissident Nguyen Khac Toan was jailed for 12 years on 20 December by a “people’s court” in Hanoi for “spying” after e-mailing material to allegedly “reactionary” Vietnamese human rights organisations abroad. His rights to a fair trial were ignored and the hearing, which lasted only a few hours, was held in secret, in violation of article 131 of the national constitution and without even family members present. He was only allowed to see his lawyer twice, a few days before the trial, but was not able to talk to him in private. Toan, a former army officer, was arrested on 8 January in a Hanoi cybercafé and was being held in the B14 prison not far from Hanoi.Dr Nguyen Dan Que, editor of the underground magazine Tuong Lai (The Future) and author of many articles posted on the Internet, was arrested at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on 17 March 2003. A few hours later, police returned to the house and seized his computer, mobile phone and many personal papers. His arrest was thought to be linked with a statement he put online criticising the lack of press freedom in the country. He was responding to remarks made by a foreign ministry spokesman on 12 March that freedom of information was guaranteed.He has already spent nearly 20 years of his life in jail and is being held at the main prison in Ho Chi Minh City. He studied medicine at Saigon University and was arrested in 1978 and held without trial for 10 years. He was arrested again in 1990 after campaigning for democracy and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, including 20 at hard labour. He was freed in an amnesty in 1998, but was still frequently interrogated and his home repeatedly searched. He was also publicly and regularly vilified by the Ho Chi Minh City state security department. June 18, 2003 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Links:Ministry of posts and telecommunications Receive email alerts to go further News News Vietnam sentences journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu to eight years in prison Help by sharing this information Three more independent reporters arrested in Vietnam Amnesty International news about Vietnam April 7, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more