Media watchdog slams Vietnam blogger jailing

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Watchdog Reporters Without Borders called on Vietnam to halt a "dangerous" trend in "Chinese-style" censorship after a French-Vietnamese blogger was jailed for three years for attempted subversion.

Pham Minh Hoang, who holds dual nationality, "should not be in prison", the media rights group said in a statement released late Wednesday following the conviction.

The 56-year-old, the latest peaceful democracy advocate to be convicted in Vietnam, was accused by a Ho Chi Minh City court judge of "blackening the image of the country" in a series of articles under the pen name Phan Kien Quoc.

France has called for the verdict to be reconsidered.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, recently handed a second term, "has instigated a crackdown that bodes ill for journalists, bloggers and free speech defenders".

"(Hoang) is a citizen who just expressed his views on matters of interest to Vietnam. His conviction reflects a dangerous trend in Vietnam towards 'Chinese-style' censorship," the watchdog said.

Hoang has already spent one year in custody, which will count towards his jail sentence. This will be followed by a further three years of house arrest.

RSF said security officers, who were armed with clubs, "tried to intimidate journalists" during the half-day trial. Vietnam is ranked 165th out of 178 countries in RSF's press freedom index.

Dozens of peaceful political critics have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009, according to Amnesty International.

© 2011 AFP

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