Vietnam arrests prominent journalist over Facebook posts

 Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a leading independent journalist, Huy Duc, for "abusing democratic freedoms" to undermine the state through his Facebook posts, police announced on Saturday. The Ministry of Public Security stated that Duc, 62, was detained for investigations into posts that allegedly "violate the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals."

Duc, a former senior lieutenant, worked for several influential newspapers in Vietnam before being fired in 2009 for criticizing the country's former communist ally, the Soviet Union. Shortly before his arrest, Duc criticized Vietnam’s new president, To Lam, and Nguyen Phu Trong, the communist party general secretary and the most powerful figure in the country’s political system. Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien was also held alongside Duc on similar charges.

Vietnam, a communist one-party state, has stringent restrictions on freedom of expression. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Vietnam 174th out of 180 countries for press freedom, labeling it as one of the world's worst jailers of journalists. Duc’s blog, one of the most popular in authoritarian Vietnam, was critical of government responses on issues such as media control, relations with China, and corruption.

Duc, whose real name is Truong Huy San, spent a year at Harvard University on a Nieman Fellowship in 2012. During his time abroad, he published "The Winning Side," an account of life in Vietnam after the war with the United States. RSF has called for Duc’s release, with RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director Cedric Alviani stating, "The articles of independent journalist Huy Duc are an invaluable source of information enabling the Vietnamese public to access censored information by the Hanoi regime."

Rights campaigners assert that the Vietnamese government has increased its crackdown on civil society in recent years, with thousands of people, including senior government and business leaders, being caught up in a massive anti-graft campaign. Duc had written on Facebook in May, "No country can develop sustainably based on fear."

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