Vietnam - Government frees cyber-dissident while keeping online activities under strict control



    MONTREAL, Feb. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is relieved to
learn that journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao was freed on 15 February on completing
a 30-month jail sentence for circulating Internet material criticising the
government. The organisation regrets that respect for the right to online free
expression continues to be rare in Vietnam.
    "We are happy for Dao and his family," Reporters Without Borders said.
"His imprisonment was unjust and we deplore the fact that this kind of
arbitrary detention can still take place. All the time he was held, Dao
continued to insist on his innocence and on the right of Vietnamese to express
themselves. But the government is doing everything possible to intimidate
activists who use the Internet, as evidenced in the recent directives
restricting online free expression."
    As he left prison, Dao told journalists he did not request an amnesty
because he "did not do anything wrong." He added: "What I told the prison
officials and security officials many times, and what I want to share with
everybody, is my call for dialogue. I think that the foundation of democracy
is dialogue."
    A founder member of the banned Democratic Party, Dao was arrested on 15
August 2006 and was sentenced by a Ho Chi Minh City court to three years in
prison on 10 May 2007. Two other members of the party, Nguyen Bac Truyen and
Le Nguyen Sang, were tried with him and were given jail sentences of four and
five years respectively.
    They were convicted on charges of "propaganda against the Communist
government" for distributing material downloaded from the Internet. The judge
ruled that their activities were "dangerous for society" and "undermined the
government's authority." Six months were taken off Dao's sentence on 17 August
2007.
    Meanwhile, new measures were introduced on 20 January to regulate
blogging. Article 1 of a directive called "Circular No. 7" says blogs must
henceforth provide only strictly personal information. Article 2 says blogs
must not be used to disseminate press reports, literary works or publications
banned by the press law.
    Article 6 stipulates that every six months, or at the government's
request, blog platform hosts must provide information about the activities of
their clients, including the number of blogs they are operating, their
statistics and any blog details that having violated the platform's rules.
Approved on 18 December, these rules are designed to curtail the development
of Vietnam's blogosphere, which has been challenging the state media as a
source of news and information.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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