[Original article: Two Vietnamese dissidents forced to flee after speaking with foreign reporter]
Two Vietnamese political dissidents were forced to flee the country while a foreign journalist was detained after they collaborated on a story for the British newspaper the Guardian. The January 2011 story highlighted the Vietnamese government’s violent crackdown on online critics in the run up to the Communist Party Congress.
Two of the people quoted in the article, Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang, have fled Vietnam after significant harassment and threats of imprisonment from the authorities.
Additionally, the foreign correspondent who wrote the story, Dustin Roasa, was detained overnight at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City before being put back on a flight out of the country the following day. “You are not welcome in Vietnam for security reasons,” Roasa was told, according to an article on the Guardian’s website from 25 October.
Roasa made a two day trip to Vietnam in January during which he met with with both Nguyen Thu Tram and Nguyen Ngoc Quang. He reported that when he returned to his hotel, the receptionist told him that the security police had asked about him.
According to the media report, Nguyen Thu Tram was harassed by the police after her meeting with Roasa, and had to move her family to a church, and later out of the country. Nguyen Ngoc Quang was also targeted by the police immediately after meeting with Roasa. Upon leaving the meeting, Quang and his friend who had accompanied him, a dissident lawyer who challenges the government on human rights violations, were chased by plain clothes policemen on motorbikes.
Tram is awaiting the processing of her application for UN refugee status, while Quang has been granted UN refugee status and is awaiting relocation to a third country, according to the Guardian report.
When the Guardian asked by email about the cases involving Nguyen Ngoc Quang and Nguyen Thu Tram, the foreign ministry provided a vague response. “No individual is arrested, detained or imprisoned for their religion, belief and expression of their political views in Vietnam. Only those who violate the law are handled in accordance with the law,” said Luong Thanh Nghi, a spokesman.
Expression is very much controlled in Vietnam where most of the mainstream media are either government owned or controlled. Despite low Internet penetration, bloggers have made their presence online, discussing political and other critical issues, much to the dismay of the government that has used the Penal Code to rein in on critical bloggers.
SEAPA (http://www.seapabkk.org/) is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). SEAPA also has partners in Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.
For inquiries, please contact us at: seapa [at] seapa [dot] org or call +662 243 5579.