US urges Vietnam to free bloggers
WASHINGTON – The United States on Tuesday urged Vietnam to free three bloggers facing charges over political articles, voicing alarm over what it said were growing restrictions on the Internet.
Well-known blogger Nguyen Van Hai, along with two others who also posted to a website banned in the communist nation, each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of charges of “propaganda against the state.”
“We call on Vietnam to release him and other bloggers who have done nothing more than exercise their universally recognized rights to freedom of expression,” US State Department spokeswoman Darragh Paradiso said.
“These cases are part of a disturbing pattern of increased restrictions on Internet-based speech in Vietnam,” she said.
The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said that Nguyen Van Hai, along with Phan Thanh Hai and Ta Phong Tan, posted 421 articles on the site and accused them of “distorting the truth, denigrating the party and state.”
In January, Human Rights Watch said that Vietnam “intensified its repression” of dissidents last year, jailing dozens of bloggers, peaceful political and religious advocates and land rights activists.
The United States has been stepping up its cooperation with the former war foe, with the two nations planning next week to hold five days of non-combat naval exchanges amid high tensions between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors.
But the United States has also repeatedly urged Vietnam to improve its human rights record.
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