Security agents in Vietnam arrested journalist Le Anh Hung Jan. 24 in Hung Yen due to critical blogs posted about the Vietnamese government.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is protesting the arrest and calling for the release of Hung and other journalists detained in Vietnam on suspicious charges.
Prior to his arrest, Hung had been harassed and interrogated by Vietnamese police for his critical blog posts about the corruption and abuse of power within the Communist Party. He was initially told there was an issue with his temporary residence papers, but it quickly became clear that it was nothing but a government attempt to cover up the arrest. He is currently being detained at a mental health institution in Hanoi, supposedly due to a request by his “mother.” Hung is not allowed to see any visitors.
The emergence of social media and blogging has led to an outbreak of citizen journalism across the world. These tools have enabled anybody with a computer to voice their opinion and report on issues that many journalists are not informed about or do not have access to. In the U.S., Hung would have been free to voice his opinion about government corruption due to protections clauses guaranteed in the First Amendment.
One of the primary responsibilities of journalists is to act as a government watchdog and make sure government officials do not abuse their power. This is exactly what Hung was trying to do, but was detained in a mental institution as a result.
We’re lucky to live in a democratic society that endorses the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I can’t even imagine trying to work under a Communist regime that restricts these freedoms through press censorship. Essentially, a journalist would publish what the government tells him to, or not publish at all. Next time I’m discouraged and complaining about how hard it is to report on a story, I’ll remember Hung’s arrest and appreciate the journalistic freedoms we have here in America.