Ho Van Hai, a 52-year-old blogger, was arrested on November 2nd by the Ho Chi Minh City police over spreading “anti-state propaganda” on Facebook. The posts have allegedly violated the controversial Article 88 of the state’s Criminal Code, criminalising publication of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. If charged and convicted, Hai is facing up to 20 years in prison. The posts have been since deleted and Hai’s blog and Facebook account have been removed.
Hai is a medical doctor. He had formerly practiced medicine in Cho Ray hospital until he was fired. Hai is currently leading a private clinic in Vietnam. His online nicknames are “BS Ho Hai” and “Doctor Ho Hai”.
Last month, the award-winning activist Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, a prominent 37-year-old blogger, was arrested in Vietnam under the same accusations over Facebook posts.
In March 2016, Nguyen Huu Vinh, a 60 year-old Vietnamese blogger, was sentenced by the People’s Court in Hanoi to five years in prison over publishing anti-state blog posts. The prominent blogger was given the sentence along with his assistant, 36 year-old Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, who will be serving three years behind bars. Both were convicted under Article 258 of the penal code for “abusing democratic freedoms to violate the interests of the state”.
According to the Freedom House report of 2015, Vietnam’s status on freedom of the net is “Not Free”. It is reported that political and social content is being blocked, bloggers and social media users are being arrested and the press is also not free.
It was reported that 29 netizens are being held behind bars, among them at least eight bloggers who were arrested or prosecuted under the criminal offence of abusing democratic freedom to infringe on state interests. Additional laws and regulations require tight “registration and licensing requirements for new social media sites”, which may also be subjected to punishment under Decree 174 for critical content. These policies marks Vietnam as “one of the worst jailers of bloggers in the world”.