Police in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi arrested RFA blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy Saturday, accusing him of “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes,” his wife told RFA.
Nguyen, 70, was vice chairman of the Vietnam Independent Journalists Association and is the third member of the group arrested in the past year.
His wife, Pham Thi Lan, confirmed the arrest in a brief telephone interview with RFA’s Vietnamese Service. She said police escorted him to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi, where he and his wife live.
Details of his arrest were not immediately available.
RFA called police investigator Tran Hoang Hiep, whose name is on Thuy’s warrant, for comment on the case, but he asked for proof the reporter was actually from RFA and then hung up the phone.
Nguyen, a 22-year military veteran, had been summoned by Hanoi police three times in connection with the arrest on Nov. 21, 2019 of Pham Chi Dung, the chairman of the Vietnam Independent Journalists Association. He is accused of propagandizing against the state.
On May 21, 2019, police also arrested another member of the association, dissident writer Pham Thanh, on the same charges laid against Nguyen on Saturday — “making, storing, disseminating documents and materials for anti-State purpose” under Article 117, of the Penal Code of Vietnam.
Nguyen, who has written weblog commentaries on civil rights and freedom of speech for RFA’s Vietnamese Service for six years, visited the United States in 2014 to testify before the House of Representatives on media freedom problems in Vietnam.
He told RFA at the time that he was “interested in the development of social media in Vietnamese society. In Vietnam nowadays, freedom of press is restricted and the government only recognizes state media.”
In March, a court sentenced RFA Vietnamese blogger Truong Duy Nhat to to 10 years for “abusing his position and authority” in a decades-old land-fraud case that drew international condemnation because the writer had been abducted, apparently by Vietnamese agents, in Thailand.
Prior to his disappearance, Truong Duy Nhat had been a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service. He had earlier been jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government.
Vietnam, whose ruling Communist Party controls all media and tolerates no dissent, ranks 175th of 180 countries on the 2020 RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
According to the NGO Defend the Defenders, Hanoi has arrested at least 29 activists, including 19 bloggers, for writing posts online, and is currently detaining 238 prisoners of conscience. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that authorities held 138 political prisoners as of October 2019.
The country has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
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