« With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown » by Julia Wallace, 02/07/2017, The New York Times
HANOI, Vietnam — A prominent blogger and environmental activist in Vietnam was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison on charges of national security offenses, including sharing anti-state propaganda on social media.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her online handle Mother Mushroom, had been held incommunicado since she was arrested in October, and attendance at her trial was strictly controlled.
But barely one hour after the verdict was handed down on Thursday, one of Ms. Quynh’s lawyers summarized his arguments and posted her final statement at the trial to his 61,000 Facebook followers.
“I hope that everyone will speak up and fight, overcome their own fears to build a better country,” she said, according to the lawyer. The statement was reposted thousands of times.
In authoritarian Vietnam, the internet has become the de facto forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Facebook connections in particular have mobilized opposition to government policies; they played a key role in mass protests against the state’s handling of an environmental disaster last year. Now, the government is tightening its grip on the internet, arresting and threatening bloggers, and pressing Facebook and YouTube to censor what appears on their sites.
“Facebook is being used as an organizing tool, as a self-publishing platform, as a monitoring device for people when they are being detained and when they get released,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.