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Rights Groups Urge Vietnam to Free Detained Blogger

FILE - A blogger who don't want to be identified, poses for photos with her blog on her computer screen in her home in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Local and foreign groups have asked Vietnam to release a blogger who was arrested for allegedly posting “bad content” and “false information” to the Internet.

Hong Le Tho, also known by his blogger name Nguoi Lot Gach, or "Brick Layer," was detained recently on anti-state charges. Tho’s blog has been inaccessible since his arrest.

Social activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a founding member of the Vietnam Network of Bloggers, tells VOA the arrest signals a change in tactics used by authorities to silence dissidents.

“It is very different from other previous cases. The police said they acted on informant information to arrest Tho, but it is so vague. It shows the discriminate use of law to protect the reputation of party and the state," she said. "We are campaigning for the freedom of expression and speech of Hong Le Tho in particular and other bloggers in general.”

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security said it acted on information from an informant. Authorities have said his online posts “discredit and create distrust among people” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, a vague and controversial law that criminalizes "abusing democratic freedoms."

The Committee to Protect Journalists has said Vietnam's Communist Party-dominated government “has increasingly used the law to stifle online criticism of its authoritarian rule.”

According to advocacy groups for journalists and bloggers, Vietnam has taken at least five bloggers into police custody under the same law since 2013.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.