A blogger in Vietnam has been sentenced to seven years in prison for “disseminating propaganda against the state.” The charges involve the way he covered the reaction to a toxic spill from a steel plant. They also illustrate the extent to which Vietnam’s government cracks down on freedom of expression. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
“Reporters without Borders” puts out an annual list ranking 180 countries in order of their press freedom.
Vietnam comes in at 175 of 180—tucked just below Sudan and just above China….and only a few levels above last-place North Korea.
A key reason for that ranking: the government’s treatment of those who criticize its policies on line.
The latest case involves Nguyen Van Hoa—arrested earlier this year after he shared video of environmental protests.
The demonstrations were sparked by a massive toxic spill last year from a Taiwanese steel plant in the north central coastal province of Ha Tinh—one of the poorest regions of Vietnam.
Community leaders say chemicals from the plant poisoned millions of fish—destroying the livelihood of thousands of local fishermen.
The company admitted waste from the plant killed the fish, and agreed to pay half a billion U.S. dollars in compensation.
The propaganda trial this week lasted just two and a half hours before returning the seven year prison term—followed by three years of house arrest.
Human Rights Watch says more than 100 people in Vietnam are currently incarcerated for criticizing the government.