Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a prominent blogger who had recently published articles critical of the government, in the latest crackdown on online dissent in the one party communist nation.
Nguyen Dinh Ngoc, 48, also known by his pen name Nguyen Ngoc Gia, was arrested at his home in the commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday, according to an announcement on the city’s official police website.
The announcement, posted Sunday, said police would “launch a further probe into [Ngoc’s] law-violating” activities and “will deal with them in accordance with the law.”
It confirmed that “the arrested person is Nguyen Dinh Ngoc” but did not reference his blogger handle or explain what crimes he had allegedly committed.
Sources inside the country told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that security officers had searched Ngoc’s home in No. 7 district of Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Phong commune before detaining him on Saturday.
Ngoc is a frequent contributor to the blogs Dan Lam Bao (The People’s Journal) and Dan Luan (The People’s Opinion) whose writings are often reposted on a number of websites both inside and outside Vietnam.
He had recently written articles critical of the government in the communist state, where authorities have recently stepped up the arrest of bloggers under ambiguous laws used to crack down on online dissent.
A source in Canada who maintains close contact with Dan Lam Bao told RFA that two weeks ago Ngoc had complained about his Facebook and Gmail accounts being “hacked.”
The source said Ngoc was adamant that “hackers cannot stop me because I write from my heart for our Vietnam and for the people,” calling on others to do the same.
Last week, Ngoc spoke with RFA about the recent arrests of two other prominent bloggers, Nguyen Quang Lap and Hong Le Tho.
Lap and Tho were each detained for violating Article 258 of the Penal Code, which pertains to “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state.”
Authorities often have cited this provision of the law to make arbitrary arrests of bloggers, activists and lawyers.
“Both of them were arrested in a 'political case' and they are prisoners of conscience, even though the government of Vietnam always denies … that they hold political prisoners,” Ngoc said.
“As we reach the end of 2014, many prisoners of conscience are suffering [in detention] from harassment and torture ... and despite the fact that the government has ratified the international convention against torture, there has been no improvement.”
Ngoc also called for civil society organizations in Vietnam to work with one another to advance human rights in the country through “transparent, peaceful and nonviolent means.”
‘Enemy of the Internet’
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, approximately 150 to 200 activists and bloggers are serving prison time in Vietnam simply for exercising their basic rights.
Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which lists Vietnam as an “Enemy of the Internet,” says 26 other bloggers and citizen journalists are still held in the country, which is the world’s third-largest prison for netizens.
Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.