Protests outside Vietnamese and Syrian embassies against “prisons behind facades”

Reporters Without Borders marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today by organising a roving demonstration that visited the Vietnamese and Syrian embassies in Paris to protest against governments that imprison journalists and cyber-dissidents.

The press freedom organisation’s activists unfurled a gigantic canvas showing the entrance to a prison in front of the gates to each embassy and called for the release of all the people who are in jail in these countries because of what they wrote in newspapers or on the Internet.

“Vietnam and Syria are ruled by governments that practice political imprisonment without hesitation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The declaration whose 60th anniversary we are commemorating today means nothing to them. The aim of our protest today is to draw attention to a plain fact - that the distinguished facades of embassies often hide ugly prison cells.”

Three journalists and eight cyber-dissidents are currently jailed in Vietnam. They include journalist Nguyen Viet Chien of the daily Thanh Nien, who was sentenced to two years in prison on 15 October for investigating corruption, and blogger and human rights activist Nguyen Hoaong Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on 4 December.

Nine journalists and cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned in Syria. They include independent journalist Michel Kilo and cyber-dissident Habib Saleh. There are more journalists in prison in Syria right now than at any time since Bashar el-Assad became president in July 2000.