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US, activists slam Vietnam internet decree

New law bars social media users from sharing information

US, activists slam Vietnam internet decree

Facebook users are the target of new laws banning sharing of information online 

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi
Vietnam

August 7, 2013

Vietnamese activists have joined the US in criticizing a new internet decree that aims to prevent bloggers and social media users from exchanging information.

The decree, scheduled to take effect on September 1, stipulates that private websites and social networking sites are not allowed to provide and share official news from state-run media. Bloggers and users of Facebook and Twitter are also barred from asking for permission to collect news from state-run media.

“The decree clearly violates people’s freedom of exchanging information, a basic right,” a human rights activist told ucanews.com on condition of anonymity.

“It aims to restrict activities of bloggers who oppose the authoritarian communist government’s policies.”

He said more internet users access various programs to get through the government’s firewalls to read uncensored blogs and social networking sites. These, he says, “provide accurate, sensitive, secret and timely information that state-run media avoid reporting.”

One third of the country’s 90 million people use internet services. It’s a risky pastime, however, given that many laws in Vietnam are malleable and used by authorities to enforce laws against those who oppose them.

The decree, signed by the premier on July 15, also prohibits internet service providers from giving information that “is against the Vietnam government, undermining national security, social order and national unity".

The US embassy in Hanoi said in a statement yesterday that the decree will limit the development of Vietnam’s budding IT sector by hampering domestic innovation and deterring foreign investment.

“We are deeply concerned by the decree’s provisions that appear to limit the types of information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites,” it said.

Noting that fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline, it added that the decree appeared 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.

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about this decree with senior Vietnamese government officials, and we call on the Vietnamese government to respect the right to freedom of expression,” the embassy statement said.

Nhan Dan, the Vietnam Communist Party’s newspaper, described international rights groups and local activists’ criticism of the decree as “distortion and slander.”

It said many people “use blogs and social networking sites to spread wrong views, deform and slam the state’s policies, and incite anti-government activities among people.”

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