Cablegate: Is Vietnam Blocking Bbc.Com?
OO RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHHI #0214 0541019
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 231019Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0965
INFO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0531
UNCLAS HANOI 000214
STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL VM
SUBJECT: Is Vietnam Blocking BBC.com?
REF: 09 HANOI 909; 09 HANOI 378
1. (SBU) There is mounting, though inconclusive, evidence that
access to the BBC's Vietnamese-language internet news site is
becoming more difficult in Vietnam. According to a UK Political
Officer, the British Embassy began to receive reports during last
week's Tet Holiday suggesting that the BBC has been blocked by
state-run internet service providers. The British Embassy has been
collecting evidence of the apparent blockage and is assessing how
to approach the GVN.
2. (SBU) The current situation appears similar to the beginning of
last fall's blockage of Facebook.com, which remains blocked (ref.
A), though the effects are uneven. Our own informal investigation
as to which ISPs throughout Hanoi are blocking access produced
mixed results. The largest ISP in Vietnam, FPT, allows some users
access to the site while not allowing others. Several Embassy
officers who have FPT provided high-speed internet at home were
unable to access the BBC site. Additionally, the BBC site is also
inaccessible on the non-OpenNet computers located in the American
Center at the Embassy Annex also serviced by FPT. A call to FPT
technical support yielded an interesting result when the technician
could not at first access the site either. After he "refreshed"
the page, he said it was then available on his local computer and
was not aware of any technical issues from his end. A similar
refreshing of the page on the computers in the American Center,
however, did not resolve the issue. The online web aggregator
Herdict.org reports that there have been two reports that
www.bbcvietnamese.com is inaccessible. Alexa.com, a free online
web traffic metrics tracker, lists BBC.co.uk as the 48th most
visited website in Vietnam and Facebook.com as the 8th most
3. (SBU) COMMENT: The GVN had previously taken a comparatively lax
approach to bloggers and the internet, interceding only when
on-line opinions translated into political action (Ref B). By
blocking Facebook and now, possibly, the BBC's Vietnamese-language
site, the government seems to have fully awakened to the power of
the Internet to mobilize and to inform -- and in so doing, may be
taking a page from China's playbook. Blocking BBC is particularly
disturbing given that it is widely read and remains the only
non-GVN managed news service that publishes daily in Vietnamese
(RFA and VOA are effectively inaccessible without proxy servers).
The site is a particularly good source of information on human
rights issues, often drawing on topics current in the Vietnamese
blogosphere, and features frequent interviews with political
dissidents and editorials authored by dissidents. In the past week
alone, BBCVietnamese.com has run feature articles on: Thich Nhat
Hanh's call for the release of political prisoners, interviews with
three high-profile political dissidents (two now living in exile
abroad) on spending Tet in prison, and debate about logging along
the Vietnamese border with China. END COMMENT.
4. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Ho Chi Minh City.