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Vietnam 7 May 2004

Nguyen Vu Binh on hunger strike

The cyberdissident began a hunger strike on 5 May 2004 at the end of his appeal trial. Vu Binh is protesting against the court’s decision to uphold his sentence of seven years in prison followed by three years house arrest. Reporters Without Borders has repeated its condemnation of this unfair sentence that has pushed the human rights activist to risk his life.

(To read this press release in Vietnamese, download the file at the bottom of this page)

Reporters Without Borders has expressed deep disappointment as an unjust prison sentence was confirmed on appeal against cyberdissident Nguyen Vu Binh of seven years in prison and three more under house arrest.

Journalists and foreign diplomats were prevented from attending the 5 May appeal hearing of Vu Binh, former journalist for a communist publication.

The international press freedom organisation said, "We condemn this abusive use of a charge of espionage" against Vietnamese dissidents. "What connection can there be between posting articles on the Internet, campaigning for human rights and espionage?" the organisation asked.

"This conviction reminds us that freedom of expression is constantly trampled underfoot in Vietnam, on the Internet as in other media," it added.

The appeal hearing, that lasted less than two hours, was attended by Vu Binh’s wife and father. His wife said after the hearing that her husband intended to go on hunger strike to press for his release.

Vu Binh’s sentence was confirmed while that of another cyberdissident Pham Hong Son, was reduced on appeal on 26 August 2002, from 13 to five years in prison. This particularly harsh sentence appears to be linked to a the fact that Vu Binh testified before the US Congress in 2002 about human rights violations in his country.

He was reportedly also accused of being in contact with "subversive dissidents" such as Le Chi Quang and Pham Hong Son, who are also behind bars. He was also supposed to have received 4,5 million dongs (around 230 euros) from a "reactionary foreign-based organisation".

He was also accused of taking part in an anti-corruption organisation as well as making a request to the authorities in 2000 to set up a liberal democratic party. Finally, he was convicted for posting items on the Internet of a "reactionary nature", in particular an essay entitled "Thoughts on the Sino-Vietnamese border agreements" in which he criticised a 1999 treaty signed between China and Vietnam.

With seven now behind bars, Vietnam has become the world’s second biggest prison for cyberdissidents after its neighbour China. The authorities censor the Internet and monitor emails to track down Internet dissidents. For more information on freedom of expression on the Internet in this country, go to the report "The Internet under Surveillance", released by Reporters Without Borders in 2003.

Biographical details:

Nguyen Vu Binh is a former journalist on the official Vietnamese communist party publication Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Reviews). A pro-democracy activist, he founding the independent organisation Democracy and Freedom and is the author of a number of articles posted on the Internet since 2001, appealing for political and economic reforms in the country.

Vietnamese version of the press release :

PDF - 55.7 kb

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