Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam has sent three bloggers to prison, with sentences of four to 12 years, as part of a crackdown on the use of the Internet to criticize the government.
The Associated Press says the three bloggers wrote about human rights abuses, corruption and foreign policy, all forbidden by the communist government.
The two men and one woman, founders of the group Free Journalists' Club, were found guilty of spreading "propaganda against the state." AP reports, Nguyen Van Hai, who writes under the name Dieu Cay, was handed a 12 year sentence, former policewoman Ta Phong Tan received 10 years and Phan Thanh Hai, the only one to plead guilty, was given a four year jail sentence. All three will also have to serve between three and five years under house arrest when they get out of prison.
Court President Nguyen Phi Long told the court, “Their crimes were especially serious with clear intention against the state.” “They abused the popularity of the Internet to post articles which undermined and blackened (Vietnam’s) leaders, criticising the (Communist) party (and) destroying people’s trust in the state.”
The cases have drawn international attention after the mother of one of the defendants set herself on fire to protest her daughter's arrest, and US President Barack Obama mentioned another one of the bloggers last spring. Obama said, “we must not forget (journalists) like blogger Dieu Cay, whose 2008 arrest coincided with a mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam.” Human rights Watch and Amnesty International have also called on the Vietnamese government to drop the charges and release the three bloggers. Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch tells the Associated Press, "These harsh sentences against bloggers are absolutely outrageous, and show the depth of the Vietnam government's intolerance of views that oppose its own." "Today's sentences show how deep-seated the Vietnam government crackdown on basic human rights really is."
Reporters Without Borders ranks Vietnam 172 out of 179 countries in its annual press freedom index and describes the government as an "Enemy of the Internet” because of its use of cyber-censorship.