The Right to Freedom of Speech by four Catholic priests
Inaugural Edition of
FREE SPEECH (Tu do NGÔN LUẬN), edited by Father Tadeo Nguyen Van Ly,
April 15, 2006

The Call for the Right to Freedom of Speech
“We are not overcome by fear anymore
We must know the truth”

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing
or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
(Point 2 of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Adopted by the
General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 December 1966; Vietnam accession in 1982)

Dear Vietnam Compatriots, in the country and overseas,

We, four Catholic priests in Vietnam, on behalf of a convocation of priests, see that:

1.   The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (1992), Article 69, states that:
“Any citizen has the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to be informed, the
right to assemble, to form associations, and to demonstrate as regulated by the law.”

2.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 19, states: “Everyone has the right to
freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.

3.   The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); adopted by the General
Assembly of the United Nations in 1966, which Vietnam indorsed in 1982, states in Article 19:
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing
or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

4.   The Catholic Church, through its II Vatican Council Decree on the Media of Social
Communications (1963), states: “It is, however, especially necessary that all parties concerned
should adopt for themselves a proper moral outlook on the use of these media, especially with
respect to certain questions that have been vigorously aired in our day.”(Point 5)  “The public
authority, in these matters, is bound by special responsibilities in view of the common good, to
which these media are ordered. The same authority has, in virtue of its office, the duty of protecting
and safeguarding true and just freedom of information, a freedom that is totally necessary for the
welfare of contemporary society, especially when it is a question of freedom of the press.”(Point
12)  And, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965), states: “All this
supposes that, within the limits of morality and the common utility, man can freely search for the
truth, express his opinion and publish it; that he can practice any art he chooses; that finally, he can
avail himself of true information concerning events of a public nature.”(Point 59)

5.   The Vietnam Communist government (SRV) uses the phrase “regulated by the law” to deceitfully
reject all the rights of speech which are defined by the Constitution in Article 69, quoted above.  It
always cruelly abuses Article 19, 3 (b) of the above-mentioned covenant:

“The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph two of this article carries with it special duties
and responsibilities.  It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such
as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputation of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or

In order to quell the legitimate right to freedom of speech of the people by arguing “the protection
of regime security” instead of “the protection of national security,” it is a deceitful and cruel
regime. Therefore, in reality, in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam so far, the Communist Party and
the government, totally monopolize information by controlling the editing, selection, and direction.  
It controls literature and exclusively possesses the media. All of these are for the purpose of
protecting the Communist regime and Party.  As a consequence, public communication and
literature are primarily one-way expression—dishonest, false and demagogic. Anyone with good
judgement appreciates that the national security would be improved if its people could enjoy open
communication, access to outside world news, and open their horizons with full, healthy, and sound
awareness.  Consequently, the government which monopolizes information or deceives its people
with fake stories (like the neo-facists), is an obvious cause of national decay, social misery and

6.   After more than sixty years of being virtually imprisoned, there are now a few media which show
clever craftsmanship.  But it is insignificant.  In general, it is quite the reverse of what is artful
tattling by the SRV.  
The Right to Freedom of Speech as previously defined has been consistently and seriously stifled.  
The only difference is that in today’s world of global information, the Vietnamese people have been
less fearful and more determined in self realization of their Right to Freedom of Speech. For
example, the government strictly controls the Internet with the aim of restricting information which
is against the Communist Party’s view rather than the protection of good habits and customs.  Mail,
emails, telephones, documents, and printed materials of political or religious dissidents are
bugged, blocked, hacked, or even destroyed.  Innumerable firewalls block access to websites
which are voicing the truth, denouncing injustice, asking for political or religious freedom,
regardless of whether those website owners are domestic citizens, overseas Vietnamese or
foreigners.  People, particularly scholars and students who join the eforums, are persecuted and
arrested.  Specifically, from 2004 up to now, the cell phone signals of the monks of the Unified
Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) have been cancelled on many occasions, oppressing this
Church.  Dissidents Nguyen Vu Binh and Pham Hong Son were arrested (and still imprisoned)
because they used the internet to express their political views. The newly established website of
the Democracy Movement for Vietnam was destroyed.  The dissident Do Nam Hai was fined because
he made photocopies of his own work. Recently, on Feb 14, 2006, two ordinary citizens, Mr. Van Sau
and Mr. Hoang Trong Chau (Bu Na Commune, Phuoc Long District, Binh Phuoc Province) were
arrested because they held some materials related to democracy, human rights, and religious

7.   Information restrictions imposed on every modern media by the SRV keep evils such as
authoritarian behavior, oppression, corruption, exploitation, and fraud, from being resolved.  It is
difficult to prosecute the culprits and to vindicate and to compensate the victims.  Next, it obstructs
individual as well as social progress.  Consequently, the intellectual and living standards of the
People are still low and the nation is moving backwards on significant issues in spite of some minor
improvements.  If the Party could have covered people’s ears as it did before 1985—such as
prohibiting people from listening to foreign broadcasts—it would have done that.  However, now
the Party has to resign itself to some prohibitions.  It looks for other ways to blind the People.  The
most basic issues of Human Rights, Freedom, and Democracy are topics prevented from access.
The People are not allowed to approach such information in a free and transparent way so that they
may maturely research and understand the nature of the issues. Inversely, they have to search for
information piece by piece and in secret and fear.  The People are like true slaves of their own

Facing great risk and terrible truth, we, four priests:

1.   Demand the Communist government of Vietnam strictly observe the terms and conditions of
International Conventions to which Vietnam has membership and to abide by the National
Constitution articles on the Right to Freedom of Speech.  They should not issue other Ordinances,
Regulations, Decrees, Resolutions, etc., which disclaim or contradict the Constitution with
dishonest means employed by any totalitarian government.

2.   Demand the Communist government of Vietnam immediately and unconditionally release two pro-
democracy dissidents, Nguyên Vu Binh and Pham Hong Son, two honest citizens Van Sau and Hoang
Trong Chau, and to withdraw the unreasonable and illegal fine issued to the pro-democracy
dissident Do Nam Hai.

3.   Demand the Communist government of Vietnam remove firewalls against pro-democracy and
pro-human right websites; revise regulations on internet use in the direction of respect for the
Right to Freedom of Speech; stop interference of cell phone signals, and cease electronic
surveillance of emails of those who have differing viewpoints from the government’s on religion,
politics and society.

4.   Demand the Communist government of Vietnam cease relying on fear to govern the People, and
not to consider the People as a flock of sheep which are ready to be taught, placated, cheated,
deafened, blinded, threatened, oppressed, exploited, imprisoned, beaten, prosecuted, etc. for the
last 76 years. The whole People are helping each other to free themselves from inherent fear of the
government so that they can proclaim with self-confidence to the face of the Communist Party that
we are not overcome by fear any more.

5.   Call on religious leaders and scholars to behave as spiritual leaders and patriotic intellectuals,
using your talents, virtues, intelligence, capabilities and means to proclaim the truth and to preach
it to the Followers and the People who are looking to you with great hope for breaking up the
deliberately obscure, covert and distorted policies of the Communists.

6.   Call on every Vietnamese citizen, particularly professors, teachers, youth, students, to execute
their Right to Freedom of Speech with enthusiasm, courage and sense of responsibility; to speak
up with self-confidence to the SRV that We must know the truth.  Today’s age is the information
age.  Today’s civilization is the electronic civilization, and today’s chief asset is the intellectual
asset. Everyone, particularly the people of developing countries like Vietnam, needs to and must
enter the international information superhighway.  We call on you to spread with courage the little-
known information which bares the deceitful and cruel faces of Ho Chi Minh and the Communist
Party, following the example of the Dec 01st, 2005 resolution of  Europarl (EP)and Resolution 1481
dated Jan 25th, 2006 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), information
which opens new horizons, presents eternal values and true achievements of mankind’s civilization
to our compatriots, who are kept in the dark by the totalitarian Communist regime.  

7.   Call on overseas Vietnamese compatriots, international governments and organizations to break
up the information barrier of the SRV by creating fire wall bypass technologies, and putting forth the
obligation of respecting Freedom of Speech as a condition for taking part in those international
organizations; transmitting to people in Vietnam essential information and legitimate viewpoints on
freedom and democracy through modern media means, and to promptly and strongly support pro-
democracy and pro-human rights dissidents in order to succeed in peacefully and civilly disbanding
the Vietnam Communist regime.   

We are sincerely grateful to all of you.  May God, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, the Creator
of human beings with minds and hearts for searching and loving the truth, bless you all and may
God bless Vietnam.  

Call from Vietnam                           
dated Feb 20th , 2006                                
On behalf of a convocation of Vietnamese Catholic priests:

Rev. Têphanô Chân Tín
Rev. Phêrô Nguyễn Hữu Giải
Rev. Tađêô Nguyễn Văn Lý
Rev. Phêrô Phan Văn Lợi  

Translation from the original Vietnamese by Faithful Follower on May 1, 2010
Allies for Freedom publishers
Nhân Quyền tại Việt Nam Series No. 2