Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vietnam Blogger Quan Jailed For 30 Months

Public protests against jailing of Le Quoc Quan (Pic BBC/AFP)







Vietnam’s dissident and blogger Le Quoc Quan, 41, whose most recent brush with the law came when he criticised the preeminent position enjoyed by the Communist Party under the country’s constitution, was jailed for 30 months and imposed an a fine of US$59,000, the BBC reported today. He has vehemently protests his innocence.


Quan who was arrested in December in Hanoi, was not charged with political crimes, but with tax evasion. “Although charged with tax evasion, it was clear that the real reason for his arrest was his blogging and his calls for political pluralism, religious freedom and civil rights,” said the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF).

“This clearly politically-motivated sentence is designed to gag and punish a dissident and is part of a strategy orchestrated by the Communist Party to persecute all independent news and information providers in Vietnam,” continues the RSF statement.

RSF also said that Nguyen Van Hai, another blogger, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment on tax evasion charges, but an additional 12 year sentence was imposed on the eve of his release, this time for anti-government propaganda.

BBC reported following his sentence Quan had said, “I have long been denouncing and fighting against corruption, bureaucracy and the stagnation that is doing harm to this country... I’m the victim of political acts,” before the live feed was cut off.

Meanwhile, RSF that has documented press freedom issues in Vietnam – “Vietnam: Programmed death of Freedom of Information” – and spearheaded a petition campaign demanding the release of 35 bloggers and netizens jailed in the country, tried to meet Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his visit to Paris in September, but was rebuffed.

“During the ongoing ‘France-Vietnam Year’ celebrations, dedicated above all to strengthening business ties, we think it is important to know about the deplorable state of freedom of information in Vietnam, where the authorities deal ruthlessly with anyone who calls for multiparty democracy, investigates Communist Party corruption or speaks out on environmental issues,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary general, RSF.

 “Strengthening business ties” was also attributed to US President Barack Obama soft pedalling issues of human rights issues, including Quan, when meeting his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang at the Oval Office on July 26. Commentators said the US’s interest in building trade ties with Southeast Asian countries – Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be one reason, while the others suggest military-strategic priorities to counter China’s emerging great power status in the region.

Prior to the meeting, human rights and media freedom watchdogs in a letter to Obama said, “Given the great importance of international attention to the effort to secure Mr Quan’s freedom, and to enable him to return to his indispensable human rights work, we hope you will seize the opportunity of President Sang’s upcoming visit to request the immediate release of Mr Quan.”

Before his detention from December last year Quan was arrested in March 2007 after completing a stint as Reagan Fascell Fellow at Washington DC’s National Endowment for Democracy. He was released without charges after being detained for 100 days. He was arrested again in 2011 and released without charges. In August 2012 he was severely injured in an assault. (Please see here)

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Vietnam that had nine journalists imprisoned in 2012, one of the worst records in any part of the world. According to the RSF Press Freedom Index, Vietnam ranks 172nd of 179 countries in 20012

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