Vietnam on Media ‘Risk List’

Posted on February 17, 2013

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A watchdog group says Vietnam’s downward trend in press freedom is among the worst in the world.

With 14 journalists behind bars, Vietnam was the sixth-worst jailer of the press. In each of the past several years, Vietnamese authorities have ramped up their crackdown on critical journalists, focusing heavily on those who work online. All but one of the reporters imprisoned in 2012 published blogs or contributed to online news publications. And all but one were held on anti-state charges related to articles on politically sensitive topics such as the country’s relations with China and its treatment of the Catholic community.

Policemen and security staff stand outside the main entrance gate of Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court where three bloggers stand trial for "anti-state propaganda" on September 24, 2012.  The court in southern Vietnam jailed three bloggers for "anti-state propaganda", including one whose case has been raised by US President Barack Obama.  High-profile blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and policewoman-turned-dissident Ta Phong Tan was given 10 years after a trial lasting just a few hours.      AFP PHOTO

Policemen and security staff stand outside the main entrance gate of Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court where three bloggers stand trial for “anti-state propaganda” on September 24, 2012. The court in southern Vietnam jailed three bloggers for “anti-state propaganda”, including one whose case has been raised by US President Barack Obama. High-profile blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and policewoman-turned-dissident Ta Phong Tan was given 10 years after a trial lasting just a few hours. AFP PHOTO

Vietnam is one of the top 10 countries in the world where press freedom suffered the most setbacks during 2012, a leading media advocacy group said this week, citing stepped-up imprisonment of journalists as a reason for the decline.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named the one-party communist state to a “Risk List” as part of its annual “Attacks on the Press” report released Thursday.

The list, which CPJ issued for the first time this year, is a measure of the most significant “downward trends” in press freedom, based on fatalities, imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile.

Vietnam made the list because conditions worsened in 2012 as authorities ramped up efforts to stifle dissent by imprisoning journalists on anti-state charges, CPJ said.

Many of those detained have been charged or convicted of anti-state crimes related to their blog posts on politically sensitive topics, and authorities have targeted online journalism by enacting restrictive legislation, it said.

CPJ ranks Vietnam as the world’s sixth-worst jailer of journalists, with 14 imprisoned at the time of its annual count in December 2012, and separately as the sixth-worst nation for bloggers.

China remained Asia’s worst jailer of journalists, CPJ said, and ranked third in the world with 32 reporters behind bars—more than half of them ethnic Tibetans and Uyghurs targeted for covering ethnic minority issues.

CPJ also warned that Cambodia was moving tentatively toward measures curbing online freedom, and that in Burma, restrictive laws and legal structures remain in place despite a “historic shift” that has seen imprisoned journalists freed and pre-publication censorship ended.

RFA