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Vietnam orders crackdown on bloggers

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Published by The Guardian

Prime minister tells police to investigate anti-government sites and bring 'offenders' to justice

Vietnam's communist rulers have ordered a crackdown on anti-government blogs, two of which immediately pledged defiance against the one-party state.

The government does not allow freedom of expression or a free media, but has been struggling against dissent being propagated over the internet. The Communist party fears that public criticism or even honest discussion about its failings could lead to social instability and ultimately loss of power. It labels democracy and free speech activists as "terrorists".

A government statement on Wednesday named three blogs it accused of "publishing distorted and fabricated articles" against the leadership.

"This is a wicked plot of the hostile forces," it said, adding that Vietnamese state employees were forbidden from visiting the sites.

The statement said the prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, had ordered police to investigate the sites and bring offenders to justice.

Reaction was swift from two of the named sites, which feature posts by mostly anonymous contributors that criticise government corruption and alleged human rights abuses.

Danlambao, or the People's Journalism Blog, said it would keep publishing.

"Danlambao and its companions are prepared to be repressed and imprisoned rather than leading the life of a dumb dog that dares not bark, subservient to those who abuse their power," it posted.

Quanlambao, meaning Official Journalism, also responded, saying Dung's move was aimed at creating the legal basis to make arrests. Reporters Without Borders says there are currently at least five journalists and 19 bloggers being held on various charges in Vietnam, part of a gathering government effort to stifle criticism of the regime.