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Asia Minute: Vietnam Deals Harshly with Bloggers


Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. It’s also a country that remains under strict Communist Party rule, where political dissension is not tolerated. The latest reminder of that reality came this week. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

Vietnam has been quicker to embrace a market economy than a democratic society.  About eight years ago, former police investigator Nguyen Huu Vinh started a news blog—including political commentary and reports on official corruption.  He called it Anh Ba Sam—or “Side Walk News Agency.”

This week, he was sentenced to five years in jail--his assistant was sentenced to three years for the crime of “abusing democratic freedoms.”  They’ve both been under government detention since their arrest in May 2014….despite Vinh’s having some ties to the Communist Party.

His late father was once ambassador to the Soviet Union.  The official verdict included the charge that the blog “misrepresented the party’s line, and lowered public trust” in Vietnam’s leadership.

On Thursday, the UN Human Rights Office criticized the sentence as harsh and the law as vague—calling on the government to “cease prosecution of individuals merely for expressing an opinion.”  The group Reporters Without Borders released a statement saying in part “the scale of this hypocrisy can be appreciated when you realize that many government and judicial officials were Ahn Ba Sam’s sources.”  In the group’s latest World Press Freedom Index, Vietnam ranks 175th out of 180 countries.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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