Wall of Shame: Female Blogger Arrested for Doing What We Do

BlogHer Original Post

Jail FenceA popular Vietnamese blogger, Le Nguyen Huong Tra, was arrested this past weekend. Her crime? "Allegedly defaming a senior Communist Party official and his family." Her blog, Co Gai Do Long, is one of the most popular ones in Vietnam, and she regularly addresses political issues with humor. Apparently deputy public security minister Nguyen Khanh Toan has no sense of humor.

On October 14, Tra claimed that Toan had "granted favours to a beauty queen and various performers who were the mistresses of his son, Nguyen Trong Khanh, a “womanizer” and consumer of drugs." In a previous, deleted-but-posted-elsewhere post, she alleged that Toan gotten his son a political job and further accused the son of drug use.

If I google "I hate President Obama," I get 36,100 results. Removing the word President from the search string returns 87,900 results. The latter search brings up a site, to which I won't link, that has the words "I hate Obama" in the URL that features any number of photoshopped photos, nasty claims and general dissent. The owner of that site hasn't been arrested. Neither were the owners of any "I hate George Bush" websites or Facebook groups.

Of course, Vietnam is not the United States. In fact, in the past few weeks, Vietnam has been "cracking down" on those pesky bloggers.

  • On August 13, a blogger with French nationality, Pham Minh Hoang, was detained in Ho Chi Minh City. He was teaching at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic School. His crime? Something in violation of article 79 which refers to attempts to overthrow the government. A later piece about his charges talked about how he discussed bauxite mining in Vietnam, a subject that is apparently "banned."
  • Phan Thanh Hai was arrested on October 18 for "propaganda against the state." His wife explained that the police had said he posted false information on his blog about the aforementioned bauxite mining.
  • In that same article about Hai, news was released that Dieu Clay, arrested in 2008 and sentenced to two and a half years after writing about protests regarding the Olympic torch relay. He was supposed to be released from prison, but they were illegally detaining him past his release date.

False information? Writing about protests? Banned subjects? We would have no bloggers in the United States if we started arresting people who did such things.

All of this unfortunate censorship makes me think of the amazing International Activist Blogger Scholarship Recipients Keynote at BlogHer '10 this past August. Those bloggers put their lives on the line to write what they do. As I said that day, they are the real radical bloggers. I encourage you to read the live blog transcript or watch the video. Knowing that these bloggers don't just worry about trolls and public flaming, but instead worry about being arrested -- or worse -- brings things into perspective.

I'm not sure what Vietnam thinks that they're accomplishing. This quote from the original article about Tra says it all.

“The government should realize that, regardless of what it does, people will continue to criticise the authorities online,” the organization said. “This is a battle that the government has already lost.”

Be thankful that you are allowed to criticize at will. Deleting troll comments is a bit easier to handle than jail time.

Would you risk being arrested to blog what you believe in?


Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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