HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese police have arrested one of the country's best known bloggers for posting criticism of the communist government, intensifying a crackdown against Internet-fuelled dissent in the one-party, authoritarian state.
The arrest of Pham Viet Dao, 61, indicates the level of concern in the Communist Party over the threat posed by Internet activism. Up until a few years the party had a monopoly on information in the country. Now, scores of blogs and Facebook accounts report gleefully on its failings and internal feuding, reaching millions of people and helping spread anger at its long rule.
So far this year, 46 bloggers or democracy activists have been convicted and imprisoned, more than the number of people locked up for violating national security laws in the whole of 2012. Foreign governments, led by the United States, have criticized the crackdown and called for the activists' release but have little leverage to force Hanoi to change tack.
Dao was arrested from his home in Hanoi on Thursday for the offense of "abusing democratic freedoms," the Ministry of Public Security said on its website. That violation of Article 258 of the Penal Code carries up to seven years in prison.
Dao, a former government official and member of the Vietnam Writers Association, ran a website where he had written posts critical of Vietnamese leaders. The site was not available Friday, apparently blocked by the government.
In a speech Dao gave to a seminar on the media last year, Dao said social media in Vietnam was "making up for the shortcomings and handicapped official media in the country," which only portrayed a "smooth and perfect society in an artificial way."
"Fortunately, with the boom of Internet, many individuals and bloggers have become journalists," he said, according to a text of his speech posted on another dissident blog Friday.
The government is under pressure because of its mishandling of the stuttering economy, once one of Asia's brightest. Well-connected state-owned enterprises have been allowed to run up massive debts over the last few years, while producing little of value, dragging down the economy.