Vietnam govt turns on bloggers

A Vietnamese blogger has been detained for “infringing on the interests of the state” after she criticised a security official and his family, reports said Tuesday.

News of the arrest of Le Nguyen Huong Tra, 35, who blogged as Co Gai Do Long, came days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about Vietnam’s rights record.

The blogger “had written several entries criticising a state official and his family for their patronage of some showbiz beauties,” the state Vietnam News said.

Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted General Le Hong Anh, Minister of Public Security, as saying the incorrect entries were posted about the family of Nguyen Khanh Toan, deputy minister of public security.

Tra is accused under the Penal Code of “abusing democratic freedoms”, Tuoi Tre said, citing investigators. She faces a possible prison sentence if convicted.

The press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned Tra’s arrest, calling it “the latest episode in a mounting crackdown on bloggers leading up to a crucial Communist Party Congress scheduled for January 2011.”

Political tensions have risen in Vietnam ahead of the ruling party’s five-yearly Congress, when top leadership posts are determined.

“Like all Vietnamese citizens, bloggers have the right to free expression, which is enshrined in their country’s constitution,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

“If officials are unhappy with entries posted by Le Nguyen Huong Tra or any other blogger, they can seek recourse under civil law, rather than relying on criminal charges to confront reporting they find objectionable.”

Rights watchdogs say Vietnam has been cracking down on political bloggers, activists and others.

On the sidelines of a regional summit in Hanoi on Saturday, Clinton said the United States is concerned about the arrest and conviction of people for peaceful dissent, attacks on religious groups, and curbs on Internet freedom.

“Vietnam has so much potential, and we believe that political reform and respect for human rights are an essential part of realising that potential,” she said.




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