Vietnam’s Blogger Revolution?
Image Credit: Yun Huang Yong

Vietnam’s Blogger Revolution?

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When security forces tried to evict a family of fish farmers from their land in Tien Lang district in northern Vietnam, they weren’t expecting to be met with guns and land mines. The ensuing battle ended up with six officers in the hospital and four men charged with attempted murder.

The case was explosive in more than one sense of the word. In a rare move in a country where news is strictly censored by the government, reporters were allowed to thoroughly investigate the case. Indeed, one former Western diplomat said at the time he had never seen local media cover a story to the same depth as bloggers.

Gradually, more and more details came to light revealing broken promises and mismanagement on the part of local authorities. Several officials were disciplined for their involvement.

Such reporting is highly unusual in Vietnam, a country rated 172nd out of 179 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2011-2012. Editors have to meet the Propaganda Department every Tuesday for “guidance” on what can and can’t be published. Although some go further than others in covering issues of corruption, self-censorship is rife. The incident therefore gave hope to some that things might change, but just a few months later, on April 24, another protest just outside Hanoi in Hung Yen Province provided evidence to the contrary.

Images of hundreds of police in riot gear facing residents of Van Giang village were posted on blogs, going viral instantly. The protesters were demanding higher compensation for land taken by local authorities to build a satellite city on the outskirts of Hanoi. But despite the hot news, local newspapers remained silent.

Non-governmental organization Red Communication works to improve the quality of journalism in Vietnam. Director Tran Nhat Minh says reporters weren’t given the same freedom to cover the protest in Van Giang as they were in Tien Lang.

“Before Van Giang authorities held a press meeting. The local authorities requested reporters to cover the story according to their own documents and not come to the site because of safety reasons,” he says.

Over the following weeks, a handful of stories filtered through. However, when two men captured on video being beaten by police at the protest were identified as journalists from a state-owned radio station, the incident started making headlines.

“The case in Van Giang showed the failure of the government to silence local media,” says Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Thi Hung.* “There was an order not to report on the case, but the beating of the two reporters from VOV was an excuse for people to cover it.”

Comments
13

[...] attempt to repress freedom of expression, according to some, Vietnam’s bloggers are becoming stronger, nimbler, and braver. An awkwardly rephrased line from Les Miserables comes to mind: is this the blogging of a people [...]

Tom Tran
July 1, 2012 at 13:48

This article was written by a foreigner with wishful thinking. I can't be sure if in my life I was ever allowed to speak freely about what the Communism is for? Remember, 3 millions died for the communists during the war. If you ever asked (or allowed to ask, until then I will believe a revolution) if those people were given a chance to say (just say, not do), would they still give their lives to build that regime in power?

John Chan
June 22, 2012 at 22:41

@Patrick,
Please get down from your high horse, the large scale demonstration against the US government insanity in front of the Capital Hill perhaps was bigger than the one in the Tiananmen Square. USA uses State Troopers, KKK, militia and assassination instead of tanks, that is the difference when it comes to suppressing the protestors.
 
Please do not ever say never, USA and those so called western democracies are just volatile like everybody else; do not get complacent just because you are in a window of tranquility.
 

Patrick
June 22, 2012 at 16:19

@John Chan- I agree with the fact that their authorities ill-treated their own protestors especially during the Occupy wall street movement and yes there is selective or slanted reporting regarding controversial issues. There have been incidents were mainstream media houses and corporations have attempted to lie to the public but it always gets out!! because there is an army of bloggers and journalists from independent media sources who have the freedom to publicly disagree with the government.
 
Wikileaks is a prime example, most goverrments want to string up Julian Assange on a pole and the US authorities would do anything to send him to prison and yet he is still out, persecuted but safe. I can't say the same about the dissidents in China where they and their families are sent to labor camps to get "reharmonised"
 
The chance of something like the Tianmen incident ever happening in these countries is impossible to say the least. People can protest and the government will try to harass them but they wont run them over with tanks.

John Chan
June 22, 2012 at 07:01

@Patrick,
You are wrong, the governments of USA, UK, Japan, and the Philippines are like thugs toward their citizens, the politicians openly called the freedom fighters of the Spring and Occupying movements in their respective nations the thugs, and crashed them without mercy.
 
There is no free media in the western nations, there are only seemed free media in the western nations, the western nations control their media with higher degree of sophistication than China, NK, Vietnam, etc.
 
The western nations steal money from the 99% for the 1% in the name of QE, too big to fail, free market, etc. just like the thugs collecting protection ransom from small business owners.
 
Indeed a government cannot act like a criminal, but who is scrutinizing the western governments except bloggers like me?

Patrick
June 22, 2012 at 05:32

@John Chan- Even if you believe that the above mentioned nations act like thugs, you cannot dispute the fact that they don't like thugs with their own citizens unlike China, North Korea, Vietnam etc and that is a very crucial difference. Free media has a very moderating influence on a government and its people.
A governement cannot act like a criminal if its every move is scrutinized.  

Errol T
June 22, 2012 at 05:07

The last time democracies didn't behave like a thug, worse thugs from fascist governments came out. Does anyone remember Hitler, Moussolini, and Tojo?

Tuan nguyen
June 21, 2012 at 18:48

in VN the reporter are free to cover story of thief, killing and rape, nude… but are restricted to cover the " sensitive issue" related to the dictatoship. They spend millions dollars to cover the EURO SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP while millions farmers have convicted their land in silence!

John Chan
June 21, 2012 at 10:40

@Nirvana,
You have missed out the worse offender in your list that is those nations proclaimed they are democracy, but behave like a thug, such as the USA, the UK, and the Philippines.

manhhai
June 21, 2012 at 00:57

The activism is getting stronger and stronger in Vietnam. The dissidents are getting younger and younger.

nirvana
June 20, 2012 at 20:52

@vninsider,
You are wrong. Democracy and freedom of speech is a universal concept, not a Western invention. It takes a long time to practice such freedom. Freedom is never a dream nor a privilege, it is a constant fight, whether in Vietnam or in the West.
@Observer,
Not only in communist countries, but in any dictatorial regime.
The common dream in the West is that a regime overthrow will instantaneously bring democracy and freedom. I say, the reality speaks for itself.

Observer
June 20, 2012 at 11:57

Freedom of speech is not allowed in communist countries such as Vietnam, china, N. Korea, Cuba, etc.
 
If anyone says anything against the state, that person will be in jail or under house arrest.

vninsider
June 20, 2012 at 02:51

"Blogger revolution" for Vietnam – Don't dream of it.
With a sophisticated network of human spies cascading down to almost every neighborhood community from major cities to small villages, an anti-government blogger can easily be spotted and quarantined. The local authorities just order a few local gangs to throw dirty trash and bags of s**t into the the blogger's house and their relatives' homes for a week or so , then the blogger's personal career and freedom are done. Most of the time, those freedom fighter blogges "voluntarily" surrendered and made public apologies. End of story and his dream of western democracy!

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