Vietnam: “Empire Strikes Back” With Blogger Censorship Law

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Vietnam: “Empire Strikes Back” With Blogger Censorship Law

Vietnam, which recently ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index  has implemented a new law which bans the sharing of news information on blogs sparking protests and global condemnation.  The Vietnamese government view is that blogs instead should be only used to share “personal Information” and not news.

Under the Decree, use of the Internet is subject to restrictions that vary depending on the purpose or effect of the use. The Decree prohibits use of Internet services and online information to oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; threaten the national security, social order, and safety; sabotage the “national fraternity”; arouse animosity among races and religions; or contradict national traditions, among other acts.

The Decree classifies websites into five different types: (1) electronic newspapers in the form of websites, (2) general information websites, (3) internal information websites, (4) personal websites, and (5) specialized websites. Personal websites cannot provide general information. (Id. art. 20.) “General information is information collected from multiple sources about politics, economics, culture, or society.” (Id. art. 3, item 19.) The Decree limits blogs and social websites to exchanging “personal information.”

Vietnam which has been arresting and imprisoning bloggers for significant prison terms for “plotting to overthrow the government,” now  can jail bloggers merely by showing they shared news .

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson said that

This is Vietnam vaulting to the head of the crowd on internet censorship in South East Asia.  The fact that it will effectively criminalize the sharing of information and the sharing of links by requiring that online social media only include originally written material is really quite a jump . . . This is a case of the empire strikes back.

This is a law that has been established for selective persecution. This is a law that will be used against certain people who have become a thorn in the side of the authorities in Hanoi

The Asia Internet Coalition, formed by eBay, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo!, said the decree would “negatively affect Vietnam’s Internet ecosystem” and deter foreign investors.  Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Decree 72 is the “harshest offensive against freedom of information” in Vietnam since 2011, when the government introduced Decree No. 2 setting out sanctions for journalists who violate a series of vague provisions.

The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi also weighed into the debate over Decree 72 last month saying: “Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline.”  It added that the internet law ‘appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More Info:  Rights groups take aim at Vietnam’s new internet laws, CNN; Vietnam’s Decree 72 on Internet Services Aims to Fight Piracy, Raises Human Rights Concerns, Infojustice.org; Vietnam: Controversial Internet Decree in Effect, Library of Congress