The Communist Party’s chief since 2001, Nong Duc Manh heads the conservative faction that is preventing the emergence of independent media. He ordered the arrest of two investigative journalists who had exposed fraud within the government, and one of them was sentenced to two years in prison.

Manh has concentrated his offensive on dissident movements running clandestine publications and websites. Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly is still in jail for launching the underground magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Expression) in the central city of Hue, while dissident journalist Truong Minh Duc was given a five-year jail sentence in July 2008 for “taking advantage of democratic freedom to harm the interests of the state and of social and citizen organisations.”

Online repression has also been tightened. Manh decreed at the end of 2008 that political comments were banned on blogs, while independent blogger Dieu Cay was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.