Amnesty: Vietnam steps up online crackdown, jailed activists at record high

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The number of political prisoners in Vietnam has reached its highest on record, according to a tally from Amnesty International, which in a report has accused Facebook and Google of censorship from the Southeast Asian country.

There are 170 “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam, the report said, of which around 70 are serving prison conditions for internet activism, largely on Facebook and Google’s YouTube.

“Once the great hope for the expansion of freedom of expression in the country, social media platforms are fast becoming human rights–free zones, where any peaceful dissent or criticism of the Vietnamese government is liable to be censored,” the report stated.

The present number of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam is the greatest that London-based Amnesty has reported as it began publishing the figures in 1996, an Amnesty spokesman told Reuters.

Amnesty defines prisoners of conscience as those who have not used or advocated violence, but have been imprisoned because of their individuality or beliefs.

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Vietnam’s foreign ministry, which handles enquires from foreign media, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Despite sweeping economic reform and openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight control on media, tolerates little opposition, and it has intensified a crackdown on dissidents and online activists before a key Party meeting next year.

Earlier this month, journalists at our content partners Thomson Reuters noted that Vietnam had threatened to close down Facebook locally if it did not agree to censor more political material. Vietnam’s government said in the time that Facebook should abide by local legislation.

Amnesty’s report said the US social networking giants don’t do enough to resist government pressure to pay off posts. It cited interviews with Vietnamese activists who said their articles were censored.

The two Facebook and Google have stated that they only restrict access to articles when it violates local laws. One such legislation, Article 117, prohibits Vietnamese citizens from “making, storing or spreading” anti-state materials.

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The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by James Pearson. Editing by Martin Petty.

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