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Facebook accused of silencing Vietnam bloggers

Keith Walker
December 15, 2018

Facebook is being used to silence bloggers critical of Vietnam's government, according to Reporters Without Borders. The campaigners said there were 26 imprisoned media workers in the Southeast Asian nation.

A police officer outside the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court
Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. Timberlake

The media campaigners Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Vietnamese bloggers living in exile were being censored because of the misuse of a safety feature on Facebook.

RSF said the social network deleted posts and blocked accounts because of alleged violations of community standards. 

"Our research shows that the Vietnamese government is apparently abusing digital space to suppress critical voices abroad as well," said RSF managing director Christian Mihr. "Those responsible must stop these attacks and respect the freedom of the press.

Bui Thanh Hieu, a Vietnamese blogger granted political asylum in Germany, was one of those concerned, according to RSF. He writes about social ills in his home country and his Facebook-distributed writings are hugely popular in Vietnam, but he has been repeatedly banned since January.

Hieu was banned from Facebook in October as a "repeat offender" after images from his account were copied and uploaded to other accounts. Those account holders then accused Hieu of copyright infringements.

Read more: Vietnamese activists under constant threat of violence

'Malicious attack'

Vietnamese journalist Trung Khoa Le has lived in Germany since 1993. He runs the online news site Thoibao.de or "Time." He was prevented from publishing a video critical of Vietnam's communist government by a block on his account. Facebook has since admitted there was a "malicious attack" and made some changes.

RSF said there were more than 20 similar cases of writers being silenced.

Vietnamese blogger Bui Thanh Hieu
Vietnamese blogger Bui Thanh Hieu has been imprisoned several times in his home countryImage: DW/S. Ballweg

Read more: Berlin bloggers fear the long arm of Hanoi

Activists in Vietnam also targeted 

Blogger and activist Do Cong Duong was given a five-year jail sentence in September on a charge of "abusing democratic freedom." This came just weeks after he was given a four-year sentence for "disturbing public order."

Duong was arrested for posting articles and video reports about land rights and evictions. The most vulnerable sectors of Vietnam's population are concerned, due to rapid urbanization in Vietnam, reported RSF.

Vietnamese activist and blogger Huynh Thuc Vy was sentenced to nearly three years in jail last month. Vy, who is pregnant with her second child, was convicted for smearing white paint on the national flag.

Read more: Berlin 'abduction' of Vietnamese businessman sparks spat

Respect press freedom

Media outlets in Vietnam are strictly censored. People who openly write about workers' protests, land grabs or corruption among high-ranking politicians face persecution and prison.

According to RSF, there are at least 26 imprisoned media workers in Vietnam, where authorities target citizen journalists in particular. On the NGO's World Press Freedom Index, Vietnam ranks 175th out of 180 countries.

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