A DECLARATION FOR INTERNET FREEDOM BY INDEPENDENT CIVIL ORGANISATIONS AND FREE CITIZENS OF VIETNAM 02-04-2017

FVPoC | 09.04.2017

  In view of the following:

1 Thanks to advanced media and information technologies, all wrongdoings committed by members of the Vietnamese Communist Party and Vietnamese government officials have been exposed to the public: Party infighting for bigger shares of power and privileges, corruption, thefts or misappropriation of public assets committed by government officials, covert or overt violent acts against civilians by the police force, sinister plans to conceal issues of national importance by Party and government leaders including issues pertaining to national politics, the economic and financial situation of the nation, national security, the environment, issues regarding the defence and protection of the nation and its interests, sinister ploys by Party leaders and the propaganda machine that aim to destroy and sabotage the democracy movement using below the belt methods such as making false accusations against democracy advocates…

2 The three pillars the Vietnamese communist dictatorship has been relying on to maintain power have been: conceal inconvenient truths, violent suppression and public deception. Fearful of losing power, the regime has applied increasingly suppressive measures to quell freedom of expression, such as the vaguely-worded clauses in the Penal Code to lock up people; Press regulations that are frequently amended to serve the regime’s interest; ministerial resolution 72 regarding controlling internet usage; ministerial resolution 174 on spreading reactionary propaganda.

3 Recently, seeing that internet usage among the general public and members of the democracy movement in particular has proliferated with remarkable efficiency, Vietnam’s Media and Information Ministry has issued circular 38 on cross-border information control and management; this requires overseas-based and foreign-owned social media outlets such as Facebook and Youtube to cooperate with the regime to block ‘bad and poisonous information’; those who are not cooperative will face punishing measures. On 21 Mar 2017, Media and Information Minister Truong Minh Tuan called on Google (owner of Youtube), and Youtube to have representatives in Vietnam so that ‘legal issues can easily be dealt with’. He previously urged domestic enterprises to no longer run their advertisements on Youtube, Facebook and other social media outlets until all ‘bad and poisonous’ information has been censored.

4 For nearly a year now, the regime has applied arbitrary interpretation to vaguely-worded sections in the Penal Code – such as section 79 (engaged in subversive activities), section 88 (spread anti-state propaganda), section 258 (abuse democratic freedom to violate national interest) – to imprison citizens whose only offences were speaking the truth and expressing their political opinion on the internet. Since March 2016, 14 netizens and democracy advocates have been detained:

– Facebooker Trần Minh Lợi detained since 22-03-2016 (sentenced on 27-03-2017).

– Blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (aka Mother Musroom) detained since 10-10-2016.

– Medical doctor and blogger Hồ Văn Hải (aka Hồ Hải) detained since 02-11-2016.

– Democracy advocates Lưu Văn Vịnh and Nguyễn Văn Đức Độ detained since 07-11-2016.

– Facebooker Nguyễn Danh Dũng detained since 18-12-2016

– Rights advocate Nguyễn Văn Hóa detained since 11-01-2017.

– Former prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Văn Oai detained since 19-01-2017.

– Blogger and land justice advocate Trần Thị Nga detained since 21-01-2017.

– Rights advocates Vũ Quang Thuận and Nguyễn Văn Điển detained since 03-03-2017.

– Facebooker Phan Kim Khánh detained since 13-03-2017.

– Facebooker Bùi Hiếu Võ detained since 17-03-2017.

– Facebooker Nguyễn Hữu Đăng detained since 24-03-2017.

          We, organisations and individuals undersigned, hereby declare:

1 We affirm that freedom of speech (including freedom of information, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to participate in street protests) is among basic human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vietnamese constitution; without which social progress would not be possible, the truth would be suppressed and justice impeded.

2 We denounce the Vietnamese communist regime for deceptively equating the Party’s and the regime’s self-interest with public and national interest. As a result, honest and conscientious citizens who speak the truth, criticise Party and government wrongdoings, expose Party’s and government’s evil deeds, defend justice, are arrested; those who use the internet and social media outlets – the remaining of very few tools the people can still utilise to defend their legitimate rights – face regime suppression and intimidation.

3 As the world is voicing strong condemnation against terrorist groups that are preaching hatred and murdering innocent people in their violent attacks, we would like to expose the Vietnamese communist regime’s ploy of equating the human rights and democracy advocates in Vietnam with the extremist terrorists and their condemning of rights advocates via social media outlets; while in fact it is the regime that is engaging in state terrorism against the Vietnamese people.

4 We join democratic governments and international human rights organisations in our assertion that individuals who are currently subject to criminal procedures, jailed or sentenced under the vaguely-worded sections of the Penal Code – section 79 (engaged in subversive activities), section 88 (spread anti-state propaganda), section 258 (abuse democratic freedom to violate national interest) – are patriotic citizens who must be immediately and unconditionally released. These are courageous people who bravely confronted a brutal and corrupt regime that exploits its people, tramples on the truth and denies its citizens justice.

5 We call on all internet users, bloggers, Facebookers, owners of human rights websites to form a network, a combat front to fight for internet freedom, which is also a fight for freedom of thoughts, for the truth, for what is right; we aim to nullify the action of the Vietnamese cyber police and regime propagandists who have been using the cyber space to spread negative and harmful information; our ultimate goal is to rally the people of Vietnam to rise up and dissolve a traitorous communist dictatorship that is cruel towards its own people but cowardly towards the Chinese enemy.

          Date of declaration: 2 April 2017

          For public release in Vietnam and overseas

          In commemoration of the 1st Vietnamese dynasty Hung Vuong, founder of the Vietnam nation on 6 April 2017 (10 Mar Lunar Year)

          In commemoration of the 1st anniversary of the Formosa disaster on 6 April 2016-2017

          Declaration drafters:

1 Democracy advocacy group Bloc 8406. Representatives: Do Nam Hai (engineer), Nguyen Xuan Nghia (author).

2 Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Association. Dr Nguyen Dan Que, Rev. Fr. Phan Van Loi.

          Declaration supporters:

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