Provided by Bill Laurie
|HANOI CRUSHING SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTION|
The prolific bloggers earn their following by reporting events and issues blocked by state censors. Dieu Cay, for example, is popular for covering protests on disputed claims in the South China Sea. Former police officer Ta Phong Tan is read for her corruption allegations, particularly against the police. Other flashpoint topics include democracy, land confiscation, human rights and unauthorized strikes. Some bloggers, perhaps more provocatively, opine on a defunct political system. Le Van Son predicted the impending collapse of the regime, and Le Quoc Quan criticized the central role of the Communist Party in Vietnamese politics.
It is tempting to think Vietnam is opening under pressure from what Time Magazine called the maturing "culture of protest." The Economist even suggested the Party is at risk of losing the moral authority underpinning its power and ominously warned that public frustration is growing, "though not as yet to revolutionary levels."
Political dissent has long been illegal in Vietnam, where multi-party politics is also against the law. This, apparently, extends to new media platforms. In September 2012 Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung passed administrative order No. 7169 instructing officials to show zero tolerance with ill-defined illegal blogs.
The crackdown is gaining such momentum that Vietnam seems destined to bottom out on the 2013 Index. In the past two months, five independent bloggers were convicted on national security charges, another was forcibly admitted to a mental health institution and 22 activists were jailed for subversion and sentenced to between 10 years and life imprisonment. In the final days of 2012, prominent human rights lawyer and blogger Le Quoc Quan was arrested and charged with tax evasion. In September, three independent bloggers and co-founders of the Free Journalists Club were sentenced to 12, 10 and four years in prison, even after the arrests had earned international condemnation, including from the White House.
In January, the head of the Communist Party's Propaganda and Education Department revealed that pro-Party bloggers are deployed across 400 online accounts and 20 blogs to praise the Party and counter criticism. The number of official bloggers is unknown but estimated at nearly 1,000.