HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam, often criticized by Western governments and international groups for its poor human rights record, has published the first issue of a human rights magazine to help counter what it calls “erroneous and hostile allegations,” state media reported last Thursday.
The official Vietnam News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem as praising the country’s major achievements over the past 25 years following reforms that push Vietnam to exercise better human rights.
“Hostile forces, however, have constantly abused the issues of democracy, human rights, religion and ethnic minorities to slander, distort and interfere in our development,” Khiem was quoted as saying.
The foreign minister said the monthly magazine would serve as one of the sources of information to disseminate the ruling Communist Party and state’s policies on human rights and help people inside and outside the country to understand “protecting human rights is the nature of our regime.”
Khiem said the magazine will also help to “fight erroneous and hostile allegations.”
Vietnam considers any form of dissent a threat that could potentially overthrow the Communist government. Hanoi has targeted dissidents within in the country along with Vietnamese living overseas, especially activists living in the U.S., branding some organizations as terrorist groups.
The U.S., European Union and international human rights groups have often criticized Vietnam for jailing religious and pro-democracy dissidents who peacefully raise their voices. Last month, Google criticized Hanoi for passing new regulations requiring public Internet sites to install software that could potentially block access to some websites and monitor user activity.
Vietnam’s one-party system does not tolerate any form of dissent, and the government often uses vague national security laws to imprison anyone who challenges its rules publicly or on the Internet.
The U.S. has labeled Vietnam as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom and has continually called for the government to allow citizens to express themselves without fear of reprisal. Over the past year, Vietnam has jailed nearly 20 pro-democracy activists.