As the Vietnamese authorities continue to arrest and convict bloggers, Reporters Without Borders has just learned that they have also been holding the journalist and political essayist Pham Chi Dung for the past month.
"Holding a citizen incommunicado for a month before letting his arrest be known is the hallmark of an arbitrary regime,” Reporters Without Borders said. "We reiterate our outrage at the current renewed crackdown on all those who dare to criticize.
"The Vietnamese authorities are again displaying complete intolerance and incomprehension towards criticism, which they automatically regard as a weapon designed to overthrow the government. Dung must be released at once and given a fair trial."
Arrested on 17 July, the 46-year-old Dung is charged with an attempt to overthrow the government. The authorities claim that he "conspired with foreign reactionaries" and "worked on documents containing elements that were entirely fabricated and defamed the government with the aim of overthrowing it."
Dung used to be a senior interior ministry official assigned to the Ho Chi Minh City popular committee (government). He also worked for several years with Truong Tan Sang, who is now Vietnam’s president.
He had pursued a literary career since 1986 and in recent years had written by-lined articles for the online magazine Phia Truoc that touched on such sensitive subjects as corruption, the lack of media freedom, environmental issues, the influence of interest groups in Vietnamese politics and the prime minster’s tight control over part of the economy.
Vietnam is ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2011/2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and, with at least five journalists and 19 netizens currently held, is the world’s third biggest prison for bloggers and cyber-dissidents, after China and Iran.
It is also one of the 12 countries that Reporters Without Borders calls "Enemies of the Internet" because of their systematic use of cyber-censorship.