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World Press Freedom Day 2011

Social media have given the gathering and sharing of news a very different dynamic. How do information consumers use social networking sites to get their news, and how do mainstream news organizations use these sites to do their journalism? Do social media platforms give citizens new ways to monitor and engage their governments? Has media
literacy kept pace with the dramatic expansion of information?

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U.S. rebukes China after human-rights talks in Beijing

BEIJING—A senior U.S. State Department official rebuked China for “serious backsliding” on human rights amid the country’s most severe crackdown on political dissent in more than a decade, and said it has already begun to hurt relations with the U.S.

At the end of two-day talks that were dubbed a “human-rights dialogue,” Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, lamented that the Chinese side had rebuffed U.S. efforts to find out about the status of lawyers, political activists, artists, religious leaders and others caught in a police dragnet in recent weeks.

Vietnam arrests pastor of outlawed Mennonite church accusing him of undermining state policy

HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnamese authorities have arrested the pastor of an outlawed Mennonite church for allegedly sowing division between the government and citizens of this communist nation.

The state-run Vietnam News says 42-year-old Nguyen Cong Chinh was taken into police custody Thursday. He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Vietnam dissident jailed for five years on appeal

HANOI — A Vietnamese communist turned democracy campaigner was given five years in prison for propaganda on appeal Wednesday, in a reduced sentence criticised by activists as still "very severe".

Vi Duc Hoi was also ordered to serve three years of house arrest after his release from prison at a court hearing in the northern province of Lang Son, a judicial source who did not want to be named told AFP.

China sheds little light on detained activist Ai Weiwei

Authorities have not said why artist Ai Weiwei was seized at Beijing airport April 3. They also have not notified his family of his whereabouts or the charges against him.

Reporting from Beijing — Was it the semi-nude photographs of himself he posted on the Internet? Was it the current exhibit at London's Tate Modern in which he uses millions of sunflower seeds to make a playful commentary about how the Communist Party treated the late Chairman Mao Tse-tung as the sun, his subjects as sunflowers fawning toward the light?

Truck drivers’ strike turns violent in China

SHANGHAI: A two-day strike over rising fuel prices turned violent yesterday, as thousands of truck drivers clashed with police, truckers said, in the latest example of simmering discontent over inflation.

About 2,000 truck drivers battled with baton-wielding police at an intersection near Waigaoqiao port, Shanghai’s biggest, said two drivers who attended the protest.

The drivers, who blocked roads with their vehicles, had stopped work on Wednesday, demanding that the government do something about rising fuel costs, workers said.

Vietnam: Free Political and Religious Detainees

(New York) - Dozens of peaceful advocates for democratic reforms, rule of law, religious freedom, and human rights face arbitrary detention and harsh prison sentences, with no respite in sight, Human Rights Watch said today, on the fifth anniversary of the founding of the democracy movement known as Block 8406.

"With a steady stream of people being locked up for nothing more than asking for their rights, the situation is critical," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Vietnam's donors and development partners need to forcefully express their public support for Vietnam's courageous activists and call for the immediate release of all who have been arbitrarily detained."

Named for its inception date of April 8, 2006, Block 8406 swelled into a movement of thousands through online petitions calling for respect for basic human rights, establishment of a multiparty political system, and guarantees of freedom of religion and political association. Vietnamese authorities respond with harassment and arrests to nonviolent appeals by Block 8406 and other groups advocating for democracy and human rights.

Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011

Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2011
Prime Sponsor: Rep. Chris Smith (NJ)
Co-sponsors: Reps Lofgren, Loretta Sanchez, Wolf

Summary of Main Provisions

Section 3

• The U.S. Government is prohibited from providing non-humanitarian assistance to the Government of Vietnam over FY11 levels unless:

- Levels of increased non-humanitarian assistance are commensurate with U.S. funding for human rights and democracy programming in Vietnam

- The President determines and certifies to Congress that Vietnam has dramatically improved its human rights record including:

Vietnamese Communists' Fear Factor is Rising

As a Libyan protester said, "After we saw Tunisia and Egypt, we thought that we can do it too;" their "fear wall broke" and the people of Libya no longer feared their corrupt and brutal dictatorship. In contrast, the prospect that the Middle-East pot might boil over into their region has dramatically increased the fear factor of Vietnam's and China's communist rulers. Since the Middle-East uprisings began, in fear of popular uprisings, they have reacted with increasingly brutal crackdowns and arrests of possible dissidents, with Vietnam following China's lead.

Vietnam's pucker factor must have ratcheted up several notches when the UN approved a No-Fly Zone over Libya, a strong show of international support of the democracy advocates there. Libya's brutal dictatorship and the communist regime in Vietnam have a lot in common. Could it be that the Vietnamese peoples' "wall of fear" might also crumble?

Space limited for foreign press at rights lawyer's trial

Hanoi- Two Western journalists are to be allowed to attend the Vietnam trial of a high-profile legal activist next week, an official from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Thursday.

The court can only afford one seat for journalists working for European media at the trial of human rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu on April 4 because of 'limited space,' the official who requested anonymity said.

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