Rep. Zoe Lofgren on Vietnam’s Deplorable Media Freedom Record
April 29, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, hosted a congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol today to discuss Vietnam's oppressive media environment. Below are Congresswoman Lofgren's opening remarks, video of which is available by clicking here:
"It is important, of course, that we think about World Press Day, this coming Saturday, as we proceed into the support forum today.
"We all know that human rights in Vietnam remain a dire situation, but not everybody in the United States realizes how serious is the issue of free speech and free press in that repressed country. It is worth noting that Reporters Without Borders, an independent group, has ranked Vietnam 174th out of 180 countries in terms of their poor performance.
"They are behind only Sudan and Iran, and only one spot ahead of China—last in South East Asia in terms of repression.
"Here's what, to quote Reporter's Without Borders, said: "Vietnam has stepped up information control to the point of being close to catching up with its Chinese big brother. Independent news providers are subject to enhanced Internet surveillance, draconian directives, waves of arrests and sham trials. Vietnam continues to be the world's second largest prison for bloggers and netizens."
"The imposition of Decree 72, last September, which bans the use of blogs and social networks to disseminate news, shows that the government is waging, really, an all out offensive against a new generation internet, which it sees as a dangerous counterweight to the domesticated, traditional media.
"Vietnam, with its horrible record, also has attracted the attention of the Commission on U.S. International Religious Freedoms—and in its most recent annual report, it identified Vietnam as a tier one country of particular concern.
"Now, [Rep.] Loretta [Sanchez] has mentioned the 3 bloggers invited who were detained and were not permitted to come here today. You know, the communists in Vietnam are trying to keep them from speaking out, but I think the irony is their oppression of these three bloggers has actually highlighted their voices. It has highlighted their voices because of you, and of because of what we will do today.
"You know, tomorrow marks the 39th year since the fall of Saigon, Black April. I mentioned at a flag raising ceremony in San Jose on Sunday, I was a young person working in a congressional office, and I was actually on the phone trying to arrange for travel for the younger sisters of a woman—a Vietnamese-American constituent—and as I was on the phone, the phone went dead and that was the end of the communication with the embassy, the government fell.
"Those young girls, 18 and 15, walked through the jungle by themselves and ultimately did make their way to the United States.
"The story of the Vietnamese in America is one of heroism, of bravery, of constancy of commitment to freedom, and what you do today to advance human rights is very much in keeping with that brave, proud record.
"Thank you for letting me be a part of this and congratulations to all of you."
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