Human Rights Watch on Thursday accused Vietnam of mounting a sophisticated and sustained attack against online dissent, including detaining and intimidating anti-government bloggers.
“In the past two months, Vietnamese authorities detained at least seven independent bloggers, subjecting them to extended interrogations and, in some instances, physical abuse,” the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.
“This intensified harassment has coincided with systematic cyberattacks targeting websites operated by some of these bloggers and other activists in Vietnam and abroad.”
The group singled out the case of Ha Si Phu, a dissident whose Internet connection was cut after he was accused of spreading anti-government information, it said.
“Since September 2009, attacks are known to have been mounted on more than two dozen Vietnamese websites and blogs,” Human Rights Watch said.
The targets of the attacks included sites operated by Catholics criticising government confiscation of church properties, political discussion forums and an environmentalist site opposed to bauxite mining, it said.
“These blatant efforts by the Vietnamese government to suppress free and open debate on the Internet is yet another sad example of the government?s hostility toward free speech and other basic human rights,” the group’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
Western donors took Vietnam to task last year, saying its restrictions on news media and Internet sites threatened its rapid economic progress.
Analysts, rights groups and diplomats have said the human rights situation in Vietnam has been worsening.