Is blogging a crime? Not in every country, but in countries who want to suppress the voice of the people. In this case, that turns out be Vietnam. The South-East Asian state is being identified as one without any independent media. Even, writing something against the ruling party in the blogosphere is deemed offensive. And, this could lead any blogger to prison. Many have already been sent to jail for expressing their discontent with the government.
The recent victim of the government’s hard stance on bloggers is Ta Phong Tan. She, along with two other bloggers named Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anhbasg) and Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay, blogged about corruption in Vietnam’s legal system. This trio was the member of Free Journalists Club, an unsanctioned group pushing freedom of speech in Vietnam. They raised their voices against the Vietnamese government. More specifically, their blogs highlighted trumped-up charges of tax evasion, highlighted human rights abuses by the government, and most importantly challenged Vietnam’s penal code for not guaranteeing the right to freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed under the constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
But, without permission of the government, creating such a group to push freedom of speech in Vietnam is illegal. In fact, the government of Vietnam doesn’t want to hear any criticism, doesn’t want to have narratives which it hasn’t approve.
Hence, the government arrested all three bloggers – Ta Phong Tan, Phan Thanh Hai and Nguyen Van Hai – at different times bringing different charges. Nguyen Van Hai has been in prison since April 2008, Phan Thanh Hai has been in pre-trial detention since October 2010 and Ta Phong Tan was arrested on September 30 in 2011.
The three bloggers will be tried on charges relating to spreading propaganda against the state. If it is proved that they are convicted on a charge of anti-government propaganda under article 88 of the criminal code, then each of these three bloggers may go to jail for up to twenty years.
The international community is, however, calling for the release of the bloggers. We hope the Vietnamese government will listen.