Open statement on Vietnam by Free Vietnam Alliance, PEN Canada and the CJFE

Wednesday, May 27, 1998
In light of continuing violations against freedom of expression in Vietnam, we, the Free Vietnam Alliance, PEN Canada and the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, join together to call for solidarity for those imprisoned in Vietnam for exercising their right to freedom of expression. We support the World Association of Newspapers' (WAN) decision to award its 1998 Golden Pen of Freedom to a Vietnamese, Professor Doan Viet Hoat, who has been incarcerated in Vietnam merely for exercising his right to think and speak freely. On 1 June, WAN will present the Golden Pen at its 51st annual World Newspaper Congress in Kobe, Japan. This conference, and other activities of WAN, contribute significantly to the struggle to protect the freedom of the press and expression which is violated in many nations, including Vietnam. We join WAN in calling for supporters to send letters appealing to the Vietnamese authorities for the release of Professor Doan and the many others imprisoned or persecuted in Vietnam for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Professor Doan Viet Hoat's case is but one of many similar instances of oppression and persecution of those who dare to express views contrary to those of the Vietnamese government. What worries us is that the oppression and persecution continues in Vietnam, challenging the conscience of humanity: 1. On 6 September 1996, Tran Hoang, Minister of Information and Culture announced the resolution of the Eighth Plenum to force journalists to study and be trained in the policies of the Vietnamese Communist Party. This is meant to control the thoughts and actions of Vietnamese journalists. 2. All media are required to have a "socialist orientation," praising the party and communist leaders. Three prominent magazines, "Hanoi Moi" ("New Hanoi"), "Tien Phong" ("Vanguard") and "Thuong Mai-Phap Luat" ("Commerce and Law") were raided by police under the pretext that state secrets had been revealed. 3. Article 22 of the Newspaper and Publishing Law strictly prohibits any publication which: a. "goes against the socialist state, and sabotages the solidarity of the people;" b. "advocates violence, war or international discord;" c. "distorts history, negates the revolutionary accomplishments of the Communist Party, denigrates national heroes, or slanders national organizations;" d. "reveals state secrets." 4. On 25 August 1997, Huu Tho, Chief of the department of Culture and Ideology said in the Party Conference that "...all publications and publishers need Party leadership and must operate within the law." According to Huu Tho, newspapers must be "the voice of the Party, the State, the social organizations, and a forum for the people." 5. On 15 September 1996, Vietnam launched a campaign called "Be alert to the hostile activities of the overseas reactionaries." 6. In September 1996, a Reuters reporter was beaten up by police when he photographed a rally held by small-business people outside the People's Committee of Hanoi. He was later arrested and was interrogated in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. All his pictures were confiscated. 7. On 23 October 1996, Vietnam expelled a United States reporter, the Hanoi bureau chief for the "Far Eastern Economic Review". 8. On 1 December 1996, a new law limited the number of foreign journalists allowed to be active in Vietnam, increased control over the press, and required that any news report, press conference, or exhibition be approved by the Ministry of Culture. 9. In October 1997, journalist Nguyen Hoang Linh, editor of "Doanh Nghiep" magazine was arrested after writing an article exposing corruption surrounding the purchase of several patrol boats for the Customs Service. 10. In December 1997, writer Pham Van Viem was kidnapped by Vietnamese secret police in Bulgaria and returned to Hanoi after he had translated a book named "The Fascist Regime" by Dr. Zheliu Zhelev, the first president of post-communist Bulgaria. He has not been seen nor heard from since. 11. In March 1998, poet Bui Minh Quoc was harassed and isolated by the Hanoi government after his anthology "Spontaneous Poetry from the Interrogation Room" found its way into overseas and underground press. The authorities are forcing his family into poverty and are subjecting them to extreme psychological stress with constant surveillance and harassment of visitors. 12. In addition to Bui Minh Quoc, writers Ha Si Phu and Tieu Dao Bao Cu have also been placed under strict surveillance. The Hanoi government has used Decree 31/CP allowing local police to strictly control all Vietnamese without charge to isolate these three people, both materially and psychologically. 13. In May 1998, journalist Nguyen Ngoc Lan, while en route to the funeral of dissident Nguyen Van Tran, author of "Write to Mother and Assembly", was followed and attacked by government agents. He was seriously injured as a result. In May 1997, Nguyen Van Tran suffered a similar attack when he was suspected of writing for the underground newspaper "Nguoi Saigon" ("The Saigonese".) Beside these outrages, the Hanoi government continues to isolate political and religious prisoners, forbidding people from visiting or bringing supplies. Recently, the relatives of professor Doan Viet Hoat went to Thanh Cam prison near the Laotian border hoping to visit him, but the authorities steadfastly refused to permit it under the pretext that the professor "has not progressed in his education." Besides Doan Viet Hoat, the government of Vietnam has applied the same measures to Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Reverend Thich Huyen Quang, Reverend Thich Quang Do, and Reverend Thich Khong Tanh. The repressive nature of the government of Vietnam is revealed as it tries to slowly stifle all those who would dare to speak out against it. The Hanoi government's monopolistic control of the media has caused considerable harm to the nation because people and society cannot progress when free thought and speech are restricted. Realizing this, many people have stood up to demand freedom of the press and of speech. Among those are many distinguished former Party members. They too have been oppressed, isolated and watched by the regime. We, the Free Vietnam Alliance, PEN Canada, and the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, believe that the struggle for the prisoners of conscience and freedom of the press in Vietnam will soon be successful if these oppressed voices are supported by the world community. We therefore appeal to you, the journalists of the world, and other supporters of freedom of expression, to follow your conscience in supporting your colleagues and the people in Vietnam. Please sign this statement and send your signature to the Free Vietnam Alliance in Paris at : B.P.203 75624 Paris Cedex 13 - France Tel: (33) (1) 46 30 37 85 Fax: (33) (1) 46 30 34 97 E-mail : lmvntd@filnet.fr Web: http://www.fva.org/ Please circulate this statement to like-minded friends and colleagues. A full list of signatures will be compiled by 15 August 1998 and sent to the authorities in Vietnam and to embassies around the world. We also encourage you to send your own letters of appeal. Click here to read a backgrounder on the situation in Vietnam. You can also read a sample protest letter sent to the Vietnamese authorities by the CCPJ.

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