Foreign Policy Blogs

Vietnam's Dirty Little War on Writers

The media is often used by those with competing messages to disseminate information or dis-information. Sometimes, though, the message is a lie.

Vietnam is an unfortunate example of manipulating the media and choking free speech for their own destructive ends.

Just yesterday, several Vietnamese writers were given honors for their work under severe pressure from officials including harassment and imprisonment when Human Rights Watch (HRW) recognized the work of 6 Vietnamese writers among 42 from 20 countries.

HRW gives the Hellman/Hammett award every year to recognize courage in the face of political persecution, and said of the writers:

“Vietnamese writers are frequently harassed, or even jailed, for peacefully expressing their views,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a statement. “By honoring courageous writers who have suffered political persecution, lost their jobs, or even sacrificed their freedom, we hope to bring international attention to voices that the Vietnamese government is trying to silence.”

The Vietnamese awardees include blogger Bui Thanh Hieu, who writes under the name “Nguoi Buon Gio” (Wind Trader); Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger known on the internet as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom); human rights activist Pham Van Troi, currently serving a four year prison sentence; Tran Duc Thach, a poet and military veteran, is currently serving a three-year prison sentence; teacher Vu Van Hung, currently serving a three-year prison term; and writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, currently serving a 42-month prison term.

Ironically (or not), just a few weeks before the HRW announcement, the Vietnamese government made an announcement of its own.

The Vietnamese government–one of the world’s last weak communist regimes–announced on July 15 it will publish a monthly human rights magazine. Not only are they not joking, but the Associated Press quoted a sickening statement from Vietnam’s ruling party about the magazine.

The AP story quotes official state media s saying that the magazine will help people inside and outside the country to understand that “protecting human rights is the nature of our regime.”

To publish such a statement for public consumption is a terrible abuse of the media, and it is republished on this blog only to showcase the absurdity of the Vietnamese officials’ perception of reality.

Communist regimes–to use Vietnam’s own word–around the world have modeled nothing for society but the wrong way to do things. According to a book called Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, communism is responsible for 80 million unnatural deaths, and human rights abuses in communist countries has always been present.

Vietnam is no exception, but rather they prove the rule. A communist regime cannot coexist with freedom of speech, thought, and belief.

In the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual “Attacks on the Press” 2009 report, they noted the noose around Vietnamese writers’ necks.

The CPJ found 300 cybercafés are outfitted with software tracking visits to banned websites. This poses a problem for the lie that the Vietnamese regime is trying to perpetrate on the rest of the world. The CPJ says in its report:

The government estimated that as many as 2 million users maintained blogs of various types. The surge in blogging posed a dilemma for the authoritarian government: It sought to promote Internet access to modernize the economy while maintaining strict restrictions on freedom of expression, especially criticism of top-ranking Communist Party leaders or discussion of sensitive government policies.

Amnesty International, in their 2009 annual report on human rights, notes in the damning section on Vietnam:

At least 11 peaceful activists received prison sentences, bringing the number of dissidents imprisoned to 30 since a crackdown began in November 2006. Most were supporters of Bloc 8406, an internet-based pro-democracy movement, or other unauthorized groups calling for democracy and human rights. The majority were charged with offences under the national security section of the 1999 Penal Code which carried lengthy prison terms, with additional sentences of up to five years of house arrest on release. An unknown number of dissidents remained in pre-trial detention.

The list of condemnations from human rights, press freedom organizations, and governments (including the U.S.) goes on and on. And it begs a question–what on earth does the Vietnamese regime plan to fill the pages of their new “human rights” magazine with, other than lies?

[following are photos from the Human Rights Watch website of their Vietnamese awardees]



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society