This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Police in northern Vietnam’s Ninh Binh province have arrested a Facebook user, charging him with defaming the government and distorting its policies, in the latest of a string of arrests aimed at shutting down criticism online of the country’s one-party communist state, state media said on Monday.
Tran Quoc Khanh, 61, is now being investigated for “making, storing, disseminating information, documents, items and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” according to the state-run Phuap Luat [Law] newspaper.
Tran had posted videos “defaming” the government from 2018-2020 while living in Hamlet 5B, Luu Phuong commune, in Ninh Binh’s Kim Son district, the state-run newspaper said, quoting Ninh Binh police.
Tran’s postings had opposed the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the country’s system of government itself, the paper added.
Vietnamese authorities have arrested or jailed five people since January on political charges, including “carrying out actions to overthrow the state,” “making, storing, disseminating information, documents, items and publications to oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” and “abusing the rights of freedom and democracy.”
Two of those arrested–journalists Phan Bui Bao Thy, 56, and Le Anh Dung, 50—were taken into custody on Feb. 10 in central Vietnam’s Quang Tri province after Facebook pages the two men operated accused provincial officials of corruption, state media sources said in an earlier report.
Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who had blogged on civil rights and freedom of speech issues for RFA’s Vietnamese Service for six years, was meanwhile sentenced to an 11-year prison term on Jan. 5, with two other independent journalists—like Thuy, members of the Vietnam Independent Journalism Association—handed lengthy jail terms at the same time.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” the Paris-based watchdog group said.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continue to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January.