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.