As use of the Internet has grown around the world, so have
efforts by many governments to control content and censor online
speech, just as they do other media such as newspapers, radio and
television. Such a crackdown appears well under way in Vietnam, where more than
20 percent of the population turns to the Worldwide Web for news,
e-mail and information. Government officials are using technical means
such as Internet filters and so-called firewalls to block access to Web
sites seen as subversive or objectionable, and where technology is
lacking, they use intimidation and coercion.
In recent weeks, Bui Thanh Hieu [BOO-ee tang YEW], writer of a
popular Weblog, was detained for several days after criticizing a
mining deal with China, Vietnam's largest trading partner. Huy Duc
[hwee DOOK], another blogger, was fired from his job at a Ho Chi Minh
City newspaper after the Communist party complained about his writings,
and others also have been detained on suspicion of abusing democratic
freedoms to undermine the state.
Bilateral relations between the United States have come far in
recent years, with greatly increased trade and cultural interchange.
The stifling of free speech, including on the Internet, however,
highlights one of the areas in which our two nations continue to
disagree. As with the arrest of democracy activists, the U.S. has
expressed its concerns about such suppression and, in effect, the
criminalization of what is normally viewed as free speech in most other
countries of the world.
Strengthening freedom of expression in Vietnam, on the internet and
in other forms of media, will have a positive effect on the country,
and it is in Vietnam's interest to do so.