In an emergency resolution approved today, the European Parliament has condemned the Vietnamese government's unprecedented crackdown on the freedom to inform and, inter alia, has called for the immediate release of a young blogger who was sentenced to seven years in prison last month.
Passed by a very big majority of MEPs at today's full parliamentary session in Strasbourg, the resolution sends a clear message to the Vietnamese authorities that they must abandon their draconian methods.
"We hail the action taken by MEPs," said Julie Majerczak, the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)'s Brussels bureau. "For the past year, the government in Hanoi has engaged in a systematic criminalization of the freedom to inform. At least 25 bloggers have been arrested or expelled from their country."
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk, added: "Following on from this condemnation by the European Parliament, we urge the EU to condition ratification of its free trade agreement with Vietnam on solid guarantees regarding the freedom to inform. The Vietnamese government needs to understand that it is being completely discredited on the international stage by this crackdown. And it will be penalized for this in the end."
In the resolution (see attached), the MEPs express their "concern" about the increase in the number of arrests and convictions of citizen-journalists. What with psychological and physical harassment, intrusive surveillance and harassment of the lawyers, employers and families of bloggers, the resolution paints a damning picture.
The MEPs call on the Vietnamese government to "release all citizens detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression." In particular, they condemn the seven-year jail sentence that Nguyen Van Hoa, a 22-year-old blogger, received on 27 November, and they call for his immediate and unconditional release.
The resolution urges Vietnam to amend articles 88 and 79 of its penal code on "anti-state propaganda" and "activities aimed at overthrowing the administration," and to ensure that national security is not used as a pretext for violating human rights.
Vietnam is ranked almost at the bottom of RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index – 175th out of 180 countries.