Press statement: No restriction of the press freedom in Berlin by Facebook!

Lê Trung Khoa, editor of Thoibao.de, reporting from the Vietnamese embassy in Berlin, the place where Trịnh Xuân Thanh was brought to after being kidnapped on 23 July 2017.

The Vietnamese-German online newspaper Thoibao.de from Berlin calls Facebook to not participate in restricting the freedom of the press.

During the night of 9 November 2018 Facebook shut down the account of Thoibao.de. However, Thoibao.de was given the opportunity to state its opinion. Through the close-down of the Facebook account, Thoibao.de sees a way of restricting the freedom of press of a media which reports critically on the politics of the Hanoi regime. Did Facebook give in to the pressure from Hanoi?

The Facebook page of Thoibao.de is an important supplement for the online newspaper. Many readers find their way to the articles via Facebook.

Thoibao.de reports from Berlin since ten years in Vietnamese and does also provide some articles in German about Vietnamese politics and the situation of Vietnamese migrants in Europe. As of now, there are 2.7 million accesses to the webpage every month. Editor in chef and publisher Lê Trung Khoa is member of the Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV, German Journalists Association) and holder of a German press card. The NGO “Reporters without Borders” was already informed about the current situation.

A large part of the accesses to Thoibao.de and its Facebook page come from Vietnam where the access in only possible via a firewall. Since 2016, Thoibao.de has become an important part of the counter-public against the Vietnamese state-run media. Especially the coverage of the abduction of Trịnh Xuân Thanh by the Vietnamese intelligence agencies in Berlin contributed to the success of Thoibao.de. Whilst the Vietnamese media still deny an abduction of Trịnh Xuân Thanh, Thoibao.de still continued on detailed reports of the investigation by the German police and the trial of a Vietnamese citizen who was involved in the whole abduction.

“Reporters without Borders” ranked Vietnam 175th out of 180 countries on press freedom. Since early 2018, Vietnam engaged a cyber-army of 10.000 cyber soldiers who comb through the internet, looking for contents critical of the government. Was Thoibao.de denigrated to Facebook by those cyber soldiers? And if the answer is “Yes”: Why did Facebook give in?

Sadly, that is not an individual case. Vietnamese jounalists get their Facebook pages shut down quite often. Vietnamese writer and Blogger Bùi Thanh Hiếu (Known as “The Wind Dealer”) who came to Berlin as a scholarship holder of “PEN Germany”, faces that situation every few months. Facebook shut down his page in October because of “infringement issues”. Family photos were the reason for the shutdown. Bùi Thanh Hiếu responded that these pictures were his and he was the first to post them online. They were then taken by other people who then reported that Bùi Thanh Hiếu has violated copyright agreements.

The presumption that Vietnamese cyber soldiers caused the shutdown of the Thoibao.de Facebook age come hand in hand with the time of shutdown: one hour prior to the shutdown on 9 November 2018, Thoibao.de announced the broadcast of a video interview with one of the most famous Vietnamese dissidents: lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài. He was invited to an event of the human rights committee of the German Bundestag on 9 November 2018 and gave Thoibao.de an interview.

The main page, thoibao.de, also suffered many cyberattacks in the past. The State Criminal Police Office LKA of Berlin started investigations. Editor in chief Lê Trung Khoa is a victim of death threats.

Lê Trung Khoa – Thoibao.de

Editor in chief and publisher

The Facebook account of Thoibao.de was suspended on the morning of 9 November 2018
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