HANOI: A prominent Vietnamese blogger has been arrested for anti-state activity, reports said Friday, the second online government critic detained in less than a month in an intensifying crackdown on dissent.
Pham Viet Dao, 61, was taken into custody on Thursday in Hanoi accused of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the State”, state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said.
The charge carries a maximum seven year jail term.
Dao, a former official at the Ministry of Culture and longstanding member of the Vietnamese Communist Party, has become a well-known internet commentator and his blog attracts thousands of hits.
His posts are often critical of the government and its top leaders and address highly sensitive issues such as China’s policy on the South China Sea — known in Vietnam as the East Sea.
Dao’s arrest follows the detention of 49-year-old Truong Duy Nhaton on May 26 on the same charges linked to his blog “A Different Viewpoint”.
Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run. Lawyers, bloggers and activists are regularly subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, according to rights groups.
Perceived Chinese aggression in the East Sea has served as a rallying point for activists and dissidents in Vietnam, who over the last three years have organized a string of protests.
The protests were initially tolerated by authorities but some recent demonstrations have been broken up by security forces.
In February journalist Nguyen Dac Kien was fired from a state-run newspaper after criticizing the head of the ruling Communist Party on his personal blog.
So far in 2013, at least 46 activists have been convicted of anti-state activity and sentenced to often lengthy jail terms under what rights groups say are vaguely defined articles of the penal code.