Aug. 6, 2009 (CWNews.com) - Catholic internet sites that have given prominent coverage to a Vietnamese government campaign against the Catholic Church-- including CWN-- are being blocked by government censors.
VietCatholic News, a service staffed by Vietnamese journalists, has long been blocked to users inside the country. Now Catholic World News, AsiaNews, Catholic News Agency, and Independent Catholic News have all been added to the list of blocked sites.
Vietnam strictly regulates Internet access for its citizens, using both legal and technical means. The collaborative project OpenNet Initiative classifies Vietnam's level of online political censorship to be "pervasive" while Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam one of 15 "internet enemies."
The government of Vietnam claims to safeguard the country against obscene or sexually explicit content to justify its blocking efforts, but in reality most of the filtered sites contain politically or religiously sensitive materials that are seen to undermine the Communist Party's hold on power; porn sites can be accessed readily.
Amnesty International has reported many instances of internet activists being arrested for their online activities in Vietnam. OpenNet research found that blocking is concentrated on web sites with contents about overseas political opposition, overseas and independent media, human rights, and religious topics.
At first most of the site blocked to users in Vietnam were written in Vietnamese and covered events in that country. Recently, however, popular Catholic sites written in English which draw a high numbers of readers in Vietnam have been added to the list, along with human-rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Writers Without Borders, and Amnesty International.
The latest crackdown on Catholic sites came after reports of a violent police assault on Catholic activists in the Vinh diocese, in which two priests were hospitalized in critical condition after being brutally beaten.