DTD is both a website covering human rights in Vietnam and an RSF partner NGO that has organized seminars on cyber-security for Vietnamese bloggers and cyber-activists jointly with RSF. Human rights-related information published by news media and NGOs (both local and international) is collected by DTD, translated into Vietnamese and posted on its site. It has also produced weekly reviews of the Vietnamese and foreign press since 2014. And finally, thanks to a growing network of citizen-journalist contributors, it posts its own articles, interviews and videos, often with English-language translations. As a result, it constitutes a bridge between an international community seeking detailed recent information from local sources, and Vietnamese civil society, which is often unable to access foreign media and NGO reports because of government censorship or technical problems.
Created as a non-profit broadcaster in 1996 and funded by the US Congress via the
Broadcasting Board of Governors, Radio Free Asia aims to provide independently-
reported news and information to Asian countries that have little or no alternative
to government propaganda. Its Vietnamese service, launched in 1997 with two
hours of programming a day, is very popular with Vietnamese citizens tired of the
propaganda put out by the state media. Radio Free Asia also has a website that
serves as an alternative way of reaching its potential audience. If offers enriched
content and detailed coverage of all of the key issues in Vietnam, with a special focus
on democracy, civil society and human rights. Although Vietnam has one of the
region’s highest Internet penetration growth rates, it blocks the Radio Free Asia
website and thereby prevents its approximately 40 million Internet users from
accessing a source of independent and critical information unless they circumvent
the censorship by using secure browsers and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Vietnam Thoi Bao (Vietnam Times) is the website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN). With “critical spirit” as its motto, it covers subjects related to human rights, politics and the economy. Created in July 2014, it was blocked three days after going online.
The website was the target of four cyber-attacks in the space of eight months: in July and August 2014 and January and March 2015. As the Vietnamese authorities regard the IJAVN as a dissident organization, its leaders are often the targets of provocations or are harassed by the police.
The IJAVN nonetheless almost doubled its membership in barely a year and the number of visits to the Vietnam Times site has increased significantly. Pham Chi Dung, the journalist who heads the IJAVN and edits the Vietnam Times, is on the RSF list of “100 Information Heroes.”
In Vietnam, the press is subjected to a system of prior censorship supervised by the propaganda department, while the authorities hound independent bloggers and citizen-journalists, often sentencing them to long jail terms and subjecting them to terrible violence. Despite this persecution, several sites such as Dan Lam Bao continue to defend the public’s right to information.
Launched in July 2009 and blocked by the Vietnamese authorities ever since, Dan Lam Bao allows Internet users to share their views freely and offers content of a diverse nature provided by people from all social classes. Its contributors include independent bloggers, traditional media journalists and whistleblowers inside the government.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued an order in September 2012 accusing Dan Lam Bao of “publishing false, fabricated and mendacious information with the aim of defaming the nation’s leaders, stirring up the population against the party and state, provoking doubts and creating bad publicity, thereby undermining the people’s trust in the state.” The order asked the public security ministry to investigate and punish anyone affiliated to Dan Lam Bao.
As a result, many contributors post under pseudonyms to avoid arrest or retaliatory harassment of their families.