Vietnamese authorities have released Father Nguyen Van Ly, the editor of the dissident publication Tu do Ngon Iuan, due to poor health after he suffered a stroke in prison. Arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 8 years for criticizing the Vietnamese government, Father Van Ly was one of at least 21 journalists being held for similar charges, according to the press freedom organization, Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. welcomes the release of Father Nguyen Van Ly for medical treatment, and calls for the release of all other journalists, dissidents and human rights activists being held on such charges.
Freedom of expression, including freedom of press, speech, assembly, movement and association remained problematic in Vietnam in 2009, according to a recently released Human Rights report by the U.S. Department of State. Independent human rights organizations or political opposition movements continued to be outlawed in that country during 2009.
"During the year, the government increased its suppression of dissent, arresting several political activists and convicting others arrested in 2008," the report states. "Several editors and reporters from prominent newspapers were fired for reporting on official corruption and outside blogging on political topics, and bloggers were detained and arrested for criticizing the government."
The report goes on to state that arrested suspects were commonly mistreated by police, despite the fact that the law prohibits physical abuse.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted freedom of expression as one of the issues discussed during the visit of Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem in October. As the U.S. and Vietnam approach the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries, the U.S. hopes to see greater and greater respect for human rights.
"The timeless principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are a North Star guiding toward the world we want to inhabit," said Secretary Clinton on the release of the 2009 Human Rights Report. "A just world where, as President Obama has put it, peace rests on the "inherent rights and dignity of every individual."