A prominent blogger and rights campaigner in Vietnam who served two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” has re-launched his website and vowed to continue his scrutiny of the country’s one-party communist government.
Truong Duy Nhat, 51, was arrested in May 2013 and sentenced in March the following year under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code—a clause which rights groups say is deliberately vague and used to prosecute critics of the country’s leadership.
On Monday, Nhat—who was released in May this year—told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that he had re-launched his blog “Mot Cach Nhin Khac” (“Another Viewpoint”), saying he refused to be intimidated by the threat of prison.
“Firstly, I would like to say that I am a journalist—a writer—so I cannot stay away from what is happening in this society,” he said.
“I am not going to choose a quiet life just because I have been in prison.”
Nhat cited victims of land grabs who had continued their campaigning “the day after they were released from prison” as a source of inspiration for him.
“Those farmers are one of main reasons that motivated me to reopen the blog,” he said.
Nhat has maintained the name of his blog, but switched hosts for the website to a server based outside of Vietnam, as part of a bid to make it “more worldly, stable and easy to maintain.”
A former writer for state-owned newspapers, including Dai Doan Ket and Cong An Quang Nam, Nhat abandoned mainstream media to begin writing “Another Viewpoint” in 2011.
The blog, which became widely known for its criticism of the government, was one of the most popular blogs in Vietnam before it was taken off the Internet after police arrested Nhat in 2013.
Police had searched his home in Danang city on the south central coast of Vietnam as part of a crackdown by authorities on online dissent.
Authorities accused Nhat of posting articles that “were not true [and] defamed leaders of the party and state,” according to his indictment.
They took him into custody for posting articles on his blog calling for the resignations of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Nhat also had conducted an online opinion poll ahead of a first-ever confidence vote on senior officials that the country’s parliament held at a session in June 2013.
On March 4, 2014, Nhat received a two-year jail sentence, prompting outrage from rights groups and an expression of “deep concern” from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, which called on Vietnam to release Nhat and “allow all Vietnamese to peacefully express their political views.”
Overseas rights groups condemned the ruling as part of a relentless drive to squelch online dissent, with global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders saying it was “outraged” by the conviction.
Vietnam has jailed dozens of bloggers and rights advocates in recent years over their online posts, with rights groups accusing the government of using vague national security provisions against them to silence dissent.
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.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by KaLynh Ngo. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.