World Day Against Cyber-Censorship on Monday, 12 March, saw the publication of The Enemies of the Internet, a report by Reporters Without Borders detailing which countries are the worst violators of online free speech. Many of the countries included on the list may come as no surprise; China once again seizes first place, and the list features several other countries renowned for their suppression of the internet – North Korea, Iran, and Burma. Perhaps more unexpected, however, is that Vietnam is not only one of the twelve named countries but is, for the second year running, the world’s second biggest jailers of netizens.
Concerns for Vietnam’s imprisoned internet community do seem to be mounting: Monday also saw several notable human rights and free expression organisations send a joint letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister calling for the immediate release of five bloggers and human rights defenders Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nong Hung Anh and Paulus Le Van Son and the dismissal of all charges against them.
However, it is not only Vietnam’s internet writers and activists who are behind bars for the peaceful expression of their views. According to PEN International’s most recent case list, there are currently more than twenty writers, including journalists, poets, scholars, novelists, essayists, academics and editor, detained in Vietnam. Of particular concern is poet and novelist Nguyen Xuan Nghia who is serving a six year prison sentence for his pro-democracy writings and activities and who has reportedly been banned from family visits since June 2010, following peaceful protests against prison conditions. For the full list of PEN’s cases of concern, please click here.
We know from our previous work on behalf of Vietnamese cases of concern, in particular our former Honorary Member editor Tran Khai Than Thuy, that pressure from the international community really can make a difference. As Tran wrote in a letter to English PEN following her early release from prison last year:
“Thanks to PEN, to people like you… I am now released from prison. To me, PEN along with other human rights organizations will always stand for love, compassion, and protection. Without the support from PEN and people like yourself… a writer like me would have probably died in prison.”
We also saw the positive impact collaborative efforts can have in the case of university professor and blogger Pham Minh Hoang. Shortly after a joint appeal was sent to the Vietnamese authorities protesting his detention, Pham’s three year sentence was reduced on appeal to seventeen months. He has since been released.
We believe that international pressure could lead to significant improvements for the bloggers and many other writers currently detained in Vietnam, and hope that you will all spare a few moments to add your voice.
SEND A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
Send messages of support for our detained colleagues in Vietnam to us via Facebook, Twitter, email and the comments box (below) and we will ensure that they are sent directly to prisoners and their families in Vietnam. (For those of you using Twitter, please use the hashtag #PENVietnam)
SEND A BOOK
We have long been encouraging our members to send books to persecuted and imprisoned writers around the world through our Books To Prisoners Programme. These books can not only provide comfort to the recipient, but also serve as a non-confrontational way to remind authorities that the international community is watching. If you are interested in sending books to our cases of concern in Vietnam, please do get in touch for more details by emailing email@example.com
SPREAD THE WORD
– Write articles and blog pieces to help raise further awareness here in the UK.
– For those of you on Facebook, please share this bulletin with your friends and encourage them to take action.
– For those of you on Twitter, please tweet a message to your followers. You may use to use this shortened link to the bulletin on our website – http://bit.ly/zFTXzk
[Sample tweet: Join me in taking action on behalf of writers detained in #Vietnam http://bit.ly/zFTXzk via @englishpen ]
WRITE TO THE AUTHORITIES
Write to the Vietnamese authorities calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Vietnam solely for the peaceful expression their opinions, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a signatory.
His Excellency Mr Vu Quang Minh
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12-14 Victoria Road,
London, W8 5RD
Fax: 020 7937 6108
Please do email the Campaigns Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know what actions you have taken, and certainly if you receive a response. Thank you.