Ridiculous: Vietnam Sentences Musicians To Jail For Songs That Protest Government Actions

from the freedom-isn't-free dept

We talk a lot about the importance of free speech here in the US, and worry tremendously about any efforts to chip away at such free speech rights. Even as we worry about how free speech issues are dealt with at home, we’re very aware that most other countries have significantly less respect for basic free expression concepts. It’s somewhat horrifying to learn that last week, a court in Vietnam sentenced two Vietnamese musicians to years in prison for writing, recording and posting online some “protest” songs:

Both were accused of posting songs on a Web site of Patriotic Youth, a opposition group based overseas. Mr. Tri, 34, who uses the stage name Viet Khang, has criticized the government in his songs for not taking a harder line against China in territorial disputes. A video for his song, “Viet Nam Toi Dau” (“Where Is My Vietnam?”), has become a YouTube hit, with 700,000 views. Mr. Binh, 37, recorded the song “Courage in the Prison” (“Nguc Toi Hien Ngang”) in support of an imprisoned blogger, Nguyen Van Hai. The song urges people to mount nonviolent protests.

And we’re not just talking about a few weeks in prison, either. Tri got four years and Binh got six years. Binh’s situation is especially ridiculous since his song is about an equally ridiculous prison sentence for a blogger. Basic political dissent is important to any free society, and to completely lock people up over some rather straightforward protest songs (that don’t advocate violence or anything like that) is really quite horrifying. The US, thankfully, has condemned these sentences, but this is an issue that more people need to know about and speak out about.

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Comments on “Ridiculous: Vietnam Sentences Musicians To Jail For Songs That Protest Government Actions”

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45 Comments
Lorpius Prime (profile) says:

Really?

This story seems like a bad fit for Techdirt. My impression is that it’s only here because these people published their dissent online. But the fact that they used the internet is incidental to their imprisonment: Vietnam oppresses all opposition, net-savvy or not. It’s absolutely a tragedy, but it’s not a new one for the Vietnamese.

I don’t know, maybe it’d be more appropriate to play up the hypocrisy of the US criticism of these arrests given the US’ own treatment of online dissent (in the form of information leaks) lately. But as it is, it’s just kind of an awkward story for this blog.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Really?

What was the rhyme again?

“They came for the Gypsies, and I did not speak up, for I was not one of them.

“They came for the Jews, but I did not speak up, for I was not one of them.

“They came for the Communists, but I did not speak, for I was not one of them.

“They came for me, but there was no-one to speak for me.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Really?

its not uncommon for masnick to write about all sorts of subject not related to ‘tech’, for example mike talks alot about copyright, particularly music, he justifies this by stating (i guess) that technology is a part copyright issues.

I dont feel they are, it’s not an issue about technology, or the media the the music is on or transmitted.

but he talk long and hard on the subject..

as for this case, again, there is only a thin connection between tech and the issue.

I dont think, these two people should be emprisioned, but the law in one country is not the US Law, standards are different, but the world certainly does not look to the US as an example of how to do it right..

they, i am sure were fully aware of the fact they were breaking their countries laws, they acted anyway, willfull intent. They probably wont do it again !

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

what is NOT ‘in technology’ then ??

for something to be copyrighted, it has to be ‘in a technology’ right, be it 8-track, wax-tubes, CD’s, DVD, broadcast, printing press !!!, so by definition, and reality, we’ve always had an issue with ‘technology’ and what is contained within it, it’s not a modern problem, or a new problem, it’s been the case as long as there has been technology, in fact it was the technology that LED to the development of copyright laws, to stop it’s abuse.

no, you get serious.. have a bit of a think, it will do you wonders.

Dionaea (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Really?

BWAHAHA

I’m not going to take your post seriously, your punctuation says enough about you. The only times you’ve used caps are for “I”, “US” and US Law. And I’m not even sure that “L” is supposed to be capitalized.

“standards are different”

The Nazi’s had different standards too, ’nuff said.

Aztecian says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Really?

Well, I’m like whatever.

However, thank you all for the quote of the day as far as I’m concerned: “standards are different”.

That is either the solution or the problem–I can’t remember what we’re working on. I suppose we all have our own conventions.

I’m now confident we CAN all just get along…separately.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Yes, really

Just because this is primarily a tech focused blog, doesn’t mean that the writers, and especially the main writer/owner can’t post non tech-based articles if they/he feel the subject is important enough to type something up covering it.

As for the most probable reason it was posted? That’s covered in the final sentence, here:

‘…but this is an issue that more people need to know about and speak out about.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Yes, really

Mike himself has complained many times about people reacting differently to some behavior simply because it happens “on the internet”. This reminds me of that. Vietnam’s been locking up dissenters for 40 years and more. But now that they’ve arrested some internet people, it merits attention on Techdirt?

Anonymous Coward says:

and how long do you think it will be before this kind of treatment happens in so-called democratic countries of ‘the free world’? people are jailed now for bringing to public attention what various governments are doing to citizens who ‘blew the whistle’, how people are made to accept ‘lesser charges, but still jailed’ for doing nothing wrong. how these governments are implementing more and more surveillance and bowing to the will of powerful corporations, instead of protecting the people

Wilson Regis says:

“We talk a lot about the importance of free speech here in the US…”

Yes, we “talk” a lot about it, but just try being active in a left wing movement in this country (for example) and see how quickly a) the government opens a “file” on you and b) your group gets infiltrated by government agents. The idea of free speech in the US is a myth that has never really existed in the way that many naive folks like to imagine. Yes many forms of speech are well tolerated but as soon as you tread on the interests of those in power you still become a target.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re:

Say it ain’t so! Anymore I don’t think you have to be active in a left wing movement for the government to ‘have a file on you’. You just simply need to use, a phone, computer, or visit a public place, have a drivers licence, register to vote, or to carry a firearm. Better not buy cold medication (behind the counter), or ammo, or …. People would be truly appalled if they knew what information the government keeps on you.

Of course it is not just the government. Without touching government systems I can probably find out in less than 3 minutes; where you live (and have lived); who you work for; how much you make; what your political leanings are; any blogs you post to; any medical problems you may have, or have had; your driving record; your criminal record; if you own a firearm (legally); your phone number(s); your email address(es); your complete credit history; and the list goes on.

The more information I have about you (age, current address, DL#, SS#…)the more accurate the information I can obtain about you.

The government, of course, can do much more, since they have access to even more data than I.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course it is not just the government. Without touching government systems I can probably find out in less than 3 minutes; where you live (and have lived); who you work for; how much you make; what your political leanings are; any blogs you post to; any medical problems you may have, or have had; your driving record; your criminal record; if you own a firearm (legally); your phone number(s); your email address(es); your complete credit history; and the list goes on.

BULLSHIT !!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

You have to still realize that Vietnam is a Communist country that takes a hard line against any free speech freedoms. When you put that into perceptive then its not too out of this world. I’m not saying this is right but when you have non democratic country that has secret police out for this purpose, this will happen

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

What free society?

Basic political dissent is important to any free society, and to completely lock people up over some rather straightforward protest songs (that don’t advocate violence or anything like that) is really quite horrifying.

Yes, except one little detail: Vietnam is not a free society; they’re a Communist state with a single-party government.

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