Mr. Bob Dietz - CPJ Asia Program Coordinator introduced Dieu Cay
Ladies and gentlemen,
On Oct. 21, 2014, I was escorted out of a Vietnamese communist prison and was forced into exile.
I was imprisoned twice consecutively and sentenced to 14 years and 6 months of imprisonment because, together with like-minded friends, I had formed a Free Journalist Network in order to exercise our right to free expression and free media.
Why were we oppressed with such harsh sentences while all we did was merely expressing our aspirations peacefully on the internet?
Why were we suppressed when we only tried to help the weak to voice their own?
Why were we harrased for merely exercising our civil rights as enshrined in international conventions of which the Vietnamese government is a signatory?
It is because Vietnam is a totalitarian state who monopolizes the media and uses it to dominate public opinion and to serve the authorities' purpose.
They do not allow their citizens to have free access to information on the internet. Their Decree no. 72 stipulates several prohibitions and many internet restrictions.
They do not accept different opinions to exist in society. Anyone dares take a position or comments on "sensitive" political issues can be regarded as staging propaganda against the State and will receive severe sentences.
In a totalitarian state as such, the people do not have the tools and means for speaking out, and voicing their aspirations.
Information technology has given us a new tool: we use blogs, facebook... to exercise our right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
And the State arrests us, cracks down on us because of that.
Three members of the Free Journalist Network received a total of 26 years of prison time just because they dared to exercise their right to press freedom.
I have spent 6 years 6 months in 11 different prisons. In those prisons there remain many violations of human rights that I personally have witnessed. My jail mates and myself included, have been deprived of all basic human rights.
My presence here is a victory of the relentless efforts of communities of bloggers and human rights defenders in Vietnam and abroad, the international human rights organizations, and of the U.S government who have put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities to force them to release me.
Among these tireless efforts was the Committee to Protect Journalists' campaign, calling on everyone to sign the petition that was submitted to the Vietnamese government, in which it urged the Vietnamese authorities to free me.
Today, I am out of prison. However, my friends and colleagues are still left behind, in jail. I must continue my struggle so that one day they all will also be free.
In closing, I sincerely hope that all journalists, all institutions to protect journalists, and all governments will keep at being vocal, and continue our fight to help free our colleagues from prisons and to advance press freedom around the world.
On behalf of journalists and bloggers who still languish in prison in Vietnam, I would like to thank CPJ and all of you for your concerns and help all these years.
With warm regards.
Dieu Cay - Nguyen Van Hai
Translated for the event by: