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Vietnam jails man for Facebook freedom campaign

'Abuse' of personal liberties leads to 15 months in jail

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The Vietnamese government has shot itself in the foot yet again on the thorny topic of human rights after a Facebook campaigner was sentenced to 15 months under house arrest for “abusing” his democratic freedoms.

Dinh Nhat Uy, 30, has the dubious honour of being the first person in the Communist state to get sent down for using the social network, according to Reuters.

Although Facebook is technically legal in Vietnam, unlike its near neighbour China, the country has strict laws governing what users can say on it and other online platforms.

Uy was charged under penal code 258, which Vietnam’s government-controlled courts often use to imprison those who “abuse” their freedom of speech, religion, association, freedom of the press etc, to criticise or oppose the authorities.

Uy was arrested back in June for a campaign he started on his Facebook page to call for the release of his brother Dinh Nguyen Kha, who was also banged up under article 258 and is serving four years for “propaganda against the state”, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

So far in 2013, 61 people have apparently been sentenced to prison for politically motivated crimes.

“Vietnam has significantly intensified its repressive tactics against peaceful activists, pursuing what is essentially a scorched earth policy against prominent public dissidents,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson in a canned statement.

“For Vietnamese activists asserting their rights, 2013 has been the year of living dangerously. The international community needs to step up and tell Vietnam that enough is enough, stop these abuses.

The indictment of Uy will do Vietnam’s bid to gain a seat on the UN Human Rights Council no favours. For those that enjoy a good yarn, the country’s campaign pledge can be read here.

As if article 258 wasn’t enough, in September the Vietnamese government introduced Decree 73 – a law intended to prevent bloggers and social media users from “providing or exchanging personal information” and which bans “harmful” content. ®

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