Vietnam isn’t a country known for enabling freedom of expression, but things look like they could get all the more concerning. Media reports claim that the country, which routinely jails bloggers and has state-run media, has turned its attention to social media with a new clampdown.
The government this week announced a new decree stipulating that blogs and social media profiles belonging to individuals and businesses should contain personal information only, according to the Bangkok Post.
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Vietnamese site Tuoitrenews.vn provides further details of the new regulations, which were signed off by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on July 15 and communicated to media yesterday. They will reportedly come in to effect from September 1:
The 20.4 clause of the decree stipulates that “personal information webpage is a webpage created by individual on their own or via a social network. This page should be used to provide and exchange information of that individual only; it does not represent other individual or organization, and is not allowed to provide compiled information.”
Hoang Vinh Bao, director of the Broadcasting and Electronic Information Department at the Ministry of Information and Communications, further clarified the new regulations when, speaking at a news conference, he told press:
Personal electronic sites are only allowed to put news owned by that person, and are not allowed to ‘quote’, ‘gather’ or summarise information from press organisations or government websites.
The regulations are part of an update to Vietnam’s ‘Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Information Content Online’ legislation, which was introduced last year to a chorus of concern from rights groups, independent media and the US Embassy in Hanoi.
The regulations go beyond this week’s update, and effectively command local Internet companies and publishers to act on government requests for the removal of information from the Web. The requirements are thought to be key factors behind the reluctance of Google and others Web companies to open local offices in Vietnam, since remaining out of the country keeps them free from the laws.
Writing at the time that the decree was launched last year, Reporters Without Borders said the regulations “would increase online censorship to an utterly unacceptable level,” while the EFF raised issue with the “alarmingly vague language” used in the documents.
Local Internet users are concerned that, from September 1, sharing news and information will be made illegal, although it isn’t clear how the rules will be enforced. The updated decree is the latest in a series of moves to control media and prevent the spread of independent news and opinions online.
Vietnam has arrested more than 40 activists this year. Only last month, the government arrested a high-profile blogger who regularly covers sensitive political topics. Pham Viet Dao stands accused of “abusing democratic freedoms,” a charge levied on another blog who was detained in May.
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