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The constitution of Vietnam provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But in practice, the Vietnamese government continues to deny these freedoms. Last June, Pham Hong Son, a physician, received a thirteen-year prison sentence for espionage that was later reduced on appeal to five years imprisonment and three years of house arrest. Dr. Son had translated into Vietnamese an essay on democracy that he had downloaded from the U.S. State Department’s Internet web site.

On December 31st, Nguyen Vu Binh, a Vietnamese journalist, was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest. Mr. Binh was arrested in Hanoi in September 2002, after posting on the Internet several essays promoting democracy and human rights.

This wasn’t Mr. Binh’s first clash with Vietnamese authorities. Mr. Binh had left his newspaper in 2001 after asking for permission, along with other dissidents, to form an independent organization to be called the Liberal Democratic Party. The Vietnamese government rejected the application. Mr. Binh also advocated the formation of an anti-corruption group and had criticized a border agreement between Vietnam and China.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli says that the U.S. strongly condemns the sentencing of Nguyen Vu Binh:

“This is the third case that we are aware of...that has involved an individual who posted his views on the Internet. The United States urges the government of Vietnam to immediately release Mr. Binh and all of those imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views, and we strongly urge the government of Vietnam to put an end to its ongoing repression of peaceful dissent.”

The Vietnamese government’s human rights record remains poor. The regime continues to persecute those who dare to speak out. The Vietnamese people should be allowed to exercise their fundamental rights.