A customer uses his tablet to access the internet at a "wifi coffee shop" in Hanoi in this file photo. Communist Vietnam has arrested two bloggers for spreading propaganda against the state under controversial laws that are seen to crack down on online freedom. (Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP)
Vietnamese authorities have arrested two blogger activists, charging them with propaganda against the state under a controversial article of the country's penal code used to target dissidents, state media said March 22.
Police arrested Phan Kim Khanh, 24 from Phu Tho province on March 21 and Bui Hieu Vo, 55, of Go Vap district in Ho Chi Minh City on March 17 for posting online content that authorities described as fabricated and malicious and aimed at to spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Radio Free Asia reported Vietnamese state media as saying.
They have been charged accordingly under Article 88.
Democracy advocate Khanh has administered two blogs called Bao Tham Nhung (Corruption Newspaper) and Tuan Viet Nam (Vietnam Week) since 2015.
He also maintains three Facebook accounts — one for Bao Tham Nhung and two others called Tuan Bao Viet Nam (Vietnam Weekly) and Dan Chu TV (Democracy TV), as well as two YouTube channels for Viet Bao TV and Vietnam Online.
Vo is the owner of a Facebook account called Hieu Bui on which, authorities claim, he called for the use of incendiary bombs and acid to attack police and government officials.
Vietnamese authorities frequently use Article 88 along with Articles 79 and 258 of the criminal code to arrest and imprison those who support democracy and human rights and denounce abuses.
Article 79 pertains to "carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration," while Article 258 refers to "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens."
The articles are among the broadly-worded national security section of the 1999 Penal Code that rights groups and Western governments say Vietnam uses to persecute dissidents. They carry lengthy jail sentences or even life imprisonment in some cases.