Vietnam has announced a new law that will ban the discussion of news on blogs and social media. The law will take effect in September.
Known as Decree 72 , the law restricts the use of blogs and social networks to providing or exchanging personal
information and bans using them to share information from news sources.
Reporters Without Borders said:
The announced decree is nothing less than the harshest offensive against freedom of information since Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a decree imposing tough sanctions on the media in 2011. If it takes effect, Vietnamese will be permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums.
The decree is both nonsensical and extremely dangerous. Its implementation will require massive and constant government surveillance of the entire Internet, an almost impossible challenge (without US help). But, at the same time, it
will reinforce the legislative arsenal available to the authorities.
They will no longer have to charge independent news providers with 'anti-government propaganda' or 'trying to overthrow the government.' Instead, they will just have
to set a few examples under the new law in order to get the others to censor themselves.
If Decree 72 is implemented, we urge the entire international community to condemn Vietnam severely and to consider imposing economic sanctions, especially on
the tourism sector, to which the government pays a great deal of attention. Sanctions on tourism are the most likely way to get a reaction from the authorities.
Until now, blogs and social networks have been important sources of news and
information for Vietnamese Internet users, and an effective way of bypassing censorship. But Prime Minister Dung announced that they could henceforth be used only to provide or exchange personal information.
Vietnam has issued a new decree to censor the activities of journalists and bloggers that includes provision for fines of up to 40 million dong (2,000 dollars) in a country in which the average salary is 126 dollars.
The government is
demonstrating its determination to tighten its grip on news and information just as the ruling Communist Party is holding its congress, Reporters Without Borders said: This decree is trying to apply the censorship already in force for traditional
media to blogs.
The press freedom organization added: The protection of the confidentiality of sources is seriously threatened by this decree. The government is going after online anonymity by trying to prevent bloggers from using
pseudonyms. This could make it easier for the authorities both to harass them and to arrest and jail them.
Due to take effect next month, the decree makes it an offence to publish information that is non-authorised or not in the
interests of the people. By interpreting these vague definitions broadly, the authorities will be able to increase the number of arrests of blogger and journalists.
The decree also provides for fines of up to 3 million dong (155 dollars) for
anyone who publishes documents or letters without identifying themselves or revealing their sources, and for up to 20 million dong if the documents are linked to an official investigation.
A democracy activist could face the death penalty if convicted at a trial expected in Vietnam late this month, his father said.
Nguyen Tien Trung was arrested in July along with several others, including human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh, and
accused of anti-state activities.
Trung was arrested for propaganda against the state , which carries a prison term on conviction. But he is now facing the more serious charge of subverting the people's administration , his father
said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death.
French European Parliament member Nicole Kiil-Nielsen said in a letter to Vietnam's French embassy: He is a democrat and pacifist.
In response to the fast growing citizen journalist movement, the Vietnamese government launched a new entity (Administration Agency for Radio, Television and Electronics Information) and decree to restrict Internet freedom, censor private blogs, and
compel information technology companies to cooperate with authorities.
Since the end of last year, authorities in Vietnam have taken further steps to restrict freedom of expression by unleashing a systematic campaign against bloggers and internet
activists. At least 15 bloggers have been arrested and harassed since September 2008.
With blogging on the rise in Vietnam, authorities plan tighter curbs and tougher monitoring.
Vietnamese authorities plan to police the content of dissident blogs through random checks and self-policing by the country's blogging community, a
senior Vietnamese Internet security expert has said.
There should be a legal corridor to assure better operation of the blogs, the director of the state-run Bach Khoa Internet Security Center, Nguyen Tu Quang, told RFA's Vietnamese
service. We'll manage them by randomly checkingówe don't need to control all the blogs.
Earlier this month, Information and Communication Deputy Minister Do Quy Doan was quoted as saying Hanoi would seek cooperation from Internet giants
Google and Yahoo! to help regulate the country's flourishing blogging scene.
The government will announce new rules this month, stressing that Weblogs should serve as personal online diaries, not as organs to disseminate opinions about
politics, religion, and society, senior officials were quoted as saying.
Quang said under the draft rules being debated violators could face up to U.S. $12,000 in fines and up to 12 years of jail time.
Authorities currently block some Web
sites run by overseas Vietnamese that espouse views critical of the government, and they often seek to shut down anything seen as encouraging public protest.
In September, blogger Dieu Cay was jailed for 2.5 years on tax evasion charges after he
tried to persuade people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City last summer.