Posted Sep 25, 2012 12:45 pm CDT
Press freedom advocates and international human rights groups are criticizing harsh sentences of three bloggers targeted by Vietnam authorities for being critical of the government.
The International Herald Tribune reports that “Vietnam seems to be racing China to the bottom of the press-freedom index” produced by Reporters Without Borders. Of 179 countries, Vietnam is No. 172 and China is No. 174.
The bloggers sentenced were:
• Nguyen Van Hai, aka Dieu Cay or The Peasant’s Pipe. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
• Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer and former Communist Party member who blogged at “Justice & Truth.” She was sentenced to 10 years. Her mother died in July after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter’s charges.
• Phan Thanh Hai, a legal activist who blogs under the name Anh Ba Saigon. He pleaded guilty and received a four-year sentence.
The bloggers were charged in April with spreading propaganda to defame the Vietnamese government, according to a news roundup by Jurist Paper Chase. The bloggers belonged to the Club for Free Journalists, a journalistic enterprise separate from state-run media.
A blogger quoted by the Committee to Protect Journalists said Vietnamese authorities worry about the influence blogs have on political life. “Now they see blogs as something very dangerous, something they need to control…They see bloggers as hostile forces,” the unnamed blogger is quoted saying.