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Pham Hong Son is a Vietnamese journalist who was convicted in June of what the Vietnamese government called “espionage,” along with other vague and arbitrary charges. Among his so-called "crimes" was translating and republishing an Internet article titled, "What is Democracy?" Vietnam's high court reduced Pham Hong Son's thirteen-year sentence. But he must still serve five years in prison, followed by another three years of house arrest.

Sophie Beach of the Committee to Protect Journalists says the Vietnamese court's decision does not go nearly far enough:

"Pham Hong Son should never have been imprisoned and he should be released immediately, and without any conditions. The arrest of Pham Hong Son does send a clear message to anyone using the Internet in Vietnam that the free expression of their views on line just will not be tolerated by the government."

Pham Hong Son is not the only dissident in prison in Vietnam for on-line expression of his ideas. Dr. Nguyen Dan Que was arrested in March, four days after he allegedly sent documents calling for human rights and political reforms to a relative in the U.S. from an Internet café.

In February, 2002, Le Chi Quang, a young Vietnamese lawyer, published an article on the Internet critical of Vietnam’s dealings with the Chinese government. For this, he was sentenced to four years in prison and three years of house arrest.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. welcomes the reduction in the sentence of Pham Hong Son, but said he should not have been jailed in the first place:

"We continue to urge the Vietnamese government to adhere to international human rights standards. Those are the standards that Vietnam freely assumed through its ratification of international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The U.S., said Mr. Reeker, urges “the Vietnamese government to release [Pham Hong] Son immediately, along with all citizens unjustly jailed for the peaceful expression of their opinions.”