A mysterious attack on a Vietnamese blogBy AP News Mar 19, 2013 2:15PM UTC
Popular alternative news source taken down by hackers, reports Asia Sentinel’s David Brown
Twenty months ago, I was approached by a member of the team that puts out the Anh Ba Sam blog, Vietnam’s leading source of “alternative news.” Would I mind, they asked, if they posted a Vietnamese translation of a story that I’d written on the deepening South China Sea crisis.
I agreed, and there began a relationship that has made my writings on contemporary Vietnam far better known to readers there and in the Vietnamese diaspora than to the several thousands who read me on Asia Sentinel and other regional online publications.
Lately – up to March 8, anyway – there has been a lively debate on the Ba Sam blog about how the Vietnamese Constitution ought to be revised. There’s nothing strange there; the National Assembly is going to vote on a new text in the fall, and in anticipation it has called for the people to express their ideas.
Taking the legislature at its word, commentaries posted on Anh Ba Sam have tilted sharply toward freeing the current constitution’s guarantees of human rights from a host of eviscerating national security-based limitations. There’s also been considerable support for diluting the Communist Party’s monopoly of political decision-making and freeing the courts and the mainstream media from a surfeit of political instruction.
That nearly ended on March 8, when the Ba Sam blog was thoroughly hacked. Several years’ reportage and commentary were deleted. The e-mail accounts of the blog’s editorial team were also compromised. The Ba Sam team has so far been unable to regain control of wordpress.anhbasam.com. That’s a manageable tragedy, however. All but a few days’ content was backed up on offshore servers.
Then, however, on March 13, the hackers struck again, posting on the website an apologia attributed to the blog’s managing editor, cobbled together from e-mailed messages and photos. Like all effective propaganda, it was a mixture of fact and fiction. A naive reader might conclude that the Anh Ba Sam team are in fact renegades and grudge-bearing reactionaries based in the United States and dedicated to the overthrow of the Hanoi regime.
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