On Monday April 7th 2014, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights held a hearing to discuss the freedom of expression in Vietnam.  The Vietnamese human rights advocates visited Ottawa after attending Vietnam’s United Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council during its session in Geneva from January 27 – February 7 2014.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process, which involves a review of the human rights records of all the UN Members. The UPR is a state-driven process, which gives an opportunity to each state to declare the actions they’ve done to improve the human rights situation in their countries and to fulfill their human right’s obligations. The UPR is designed to confirm that equal treatment for each country is present when their human rights situations are evaluated.

Vietnam is a one-party communist state.  The country’s constitution states that freedom of speech is provided, but in practice the government limits this right through broad national security and anti-defamation laws.  Blogs provide an alternative platform for activism and protest.

The Vietnamese government doesn’t allow private ownership of media outlets, but some companies sell newspapers in the form of company newsletters.  These newsletters only talk about celebrities’ lives and gossip, being very wary of critiquing the Vietnamese government.

Citizens are surveyed on the Internet to monitor the information they share and exchange.  If the information being shared and exchanged harms social order or challenges how the Vietnamese government operates, they can face jail time.

When discussing ‘propaganda’, ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’; in 2013 a U.S. Department of state report crimes in Vietnam include:

  • “sabotaging the infrastructure of socialism”
  • “propaganda against the state”
  • “taking advantage of democratic freedoms and its rights to violate the interests of the state and social organizations”; and
  • Failure to provide “honest domestic and international news in accordance with the interests of the country and the people.”

Overall, the concept of privacy and censorship is a pressing issue, but is criminalizing people for voicing their opinion on issues that affect them necessary?

In my next blog I will tell you the story on Din, a Vietnamese blogger and dissident.