Vietnam Urged to Free Detained Citizen Journalist on World Press
A group of human rights and internet security organizations marked
World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday by calling on Vietnam to free
detained citizen journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, held since January on
charges of disseminating “anti-state propaganda.”
In a statement signed by Paris-based
Reporters Sans Frontieres and Washington-based Electronic Frontier
Foundation, among others, the organizations demanded that
authorities “immediately release” Hoa, an activist known for filming
protests against a polluting steel plant.
“With mounting social and
environmental challenges, the government of Vietnam should welcome
transparency and peaceful dialogue,” the statement said.
“Repressing citizen journalists is
not only a violation of human rights but also a major impediment to
Vietnam’s aspirations to become a tech and innovation hub.”
Hoa, 22, who is also a digital
security trainer and regular contributor to RFA, was the first
person to broadcast live footage of protests outside Taiwan-owned
Formosa’s steel plant located at the deep-water port in Ha Tinh
province using a flycam drone. Last October, his footage of more
than 10,000 peaceful protesters went viral.
Formosa has acknowledged that its
steel plant caused a toxic waste spill last year that killed an
estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four
coastal provinces. The company pledged U.S. $500 million to clean up
and compensate people affected by the spill, but the government has
faced protests over the amount of the settlement and the slow pace
Police arrested Hoa on Jan. 11 amid
detentions of several activists in advance of the Tet holiday and
initially accused him of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe
upon the interests of the State” under Article 258, before changing
the charges to “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88.
Authorities in Vietnam recently
released a video of Hoa “apologizing” for his reporting of the
Formosa protests, in what is seen as an attempt to dissuade the
public from taking part in peaceful activism and citizen journalism.
Wednesday’s statement noted that
Hoa’s detention comes as the Vietnamese government launches a
crackdown against citizen journalists, online activists and human
rights defenders. Two bloggers, Nguyen Van Oai and Tran Thi Nga,
were detained within days of Hoa’s arrest.
According to the New York-based
Committee to Protect Journalists, Vietnam held at least eight
reporters behind bars as of Dec. 1, 2016, when the organization last
conducted its annual global census of jailed journalists.
The Southeast Asian nation has
consistently ranked among the 10 worst jailers of journalists in the
world, the group said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese
Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Joshua
Vietnam Human Rights Network
of Rights] [Documents]
[Human Rights news]