Vietnamese Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung has declared that citizen journalists responsible for “slanderous” blogs must be “seriously punished” after the publication of a series of articles highlighting high-level corruption.
The Vietnamese language sites Dan Lam Bao (the People Report) and Quan Lam Bao (Senior Officials Working as Journalists) have recently run a number of articles focusing on an intensifying battle between factions in the communist country’s ruling class.
The government website decried the sites on Wednesday, saying that they have “slandered the country's leadership, fabricated and distorted information, agitated against the party and the state, and caused suspicion and mistrust in society."
The blogs were described as “villainous ploys of hostile forces," by the Prime Minister who ordered civil servants not to read them and called for “serious punishment” for those responsible.
Blogs offer outlet from tightly controlled media
Vietnam, which does not allow private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run, routinely uses charges of spreading anti-state propaganda to prosecute dissidents.
As more citizen journalists have taken to social media and blogs to write articles and express opinions, the government authorities have struggled to control online media, and have cracked down on bloggers.
Dan Lam Bao said in an online post that after the Prime Minister's comments were broadcast on state television their site recorded a record 32,000 hits in an hour.
The sites have run a number of stories on political infighting, including accounts of the August arrest of banking tycoon and multi-millionaire Nguyen Duc Kien and the detention of the former head of the bank he founded.
Kien is seen as being aligned with Prime Minister Dung and became the subject of intense speculation on the blogs over his business dealings with Dung's daughter.
Experts have argued that the arrest is a further indication of political infighting between Prime Minister Dung and prominent rivals, including party leader Nguyen Phy Trong and President Truong Tan Sang, as their anti-corruption efforts have received extensive coverage on the blogs.
Journalists facing persecution
Earlier this year, three bloggers were prosecuted for posting on banned websites, and human rights organisations have warned against increased repression for journalists in Vietnam.
Last week, investigative reporter Hoang Khuong was sentenced for four years in jail after he bribed a traffic police officer as part of a story exposing corruption.
Source: DCMF, RSF, BBC