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Vietnamese authorities miffed over awards given to bloggers

Hanoi (UCAN): A Communist Party newspaper in Vietnam, Nhan Dan, criticised the United States of America (US) and two international organisations on March 15 for conferring awards on three Vietnamese bloggers, including one who is in prison.

In an editorial, the newspaper said the awards aim to “encourage anti-government activists and directly intervene in Vietnam’s internal affairs.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Luong Thanh Nghi, said, “This is a wrongdoing and does not benefit development between the two countries.” 

On March 8, US secretary of state, John Kerry, angered Vietnamese politicians when he presented, in absentia, the International Women of Courage Award to ground-breaking Catholic blogger Ta Phong Tan, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence. 

Tan started her blog, Truth and Justice, in 2006, posting articles on political news events considered off-limits by the authorities. 

She was convicted of distributing propaganda against the state in September 2012.

Tan’s sister, Ta Minh Tu, told the BBC that Tan “is worthy of receiving the prize because she dares to voice her freedom of democracy in spite of government repression.”

Meanwhile, Nguyen Hoang Vi was honoured by the Canada-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange for her efforts to protect freedom of speech.

In addition, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, was presented with the 2013 Netizen’s Award by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on March 12, marking the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship.

Nhan Dan accused the three writers of “making use of freedom of communication, speech and the Internet to carry out opposing activities and cause unrest in the country.”

It also accused them of tarnishing the country’s image.

The newspaper claimed the awards are little known and do not encourage freedom of communication, speech and the Internet, but only attack the Vietnamese government. 

Reporters Without Borders has Vietnam on its list of State Enemies of the Internet, countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in violations of freedom of information and human rights.

The list also included Syria, China, Iran and Bahrain.

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