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Furore over social media sharing ban in Vietnam

Caroline Ng | Aug. 2, 2013
A newly signed decree by the Communist government stifles online freedom, turning current affairs news into a state monopoly.

Vietnam has announced a new decree to ban bloggers and social media users to share news stories on hugely popular social networking platforms.

Called the Decree 72, the document signed by Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung will come into force on 1 September.

According to the decree, blogs and social media sites should only be used to "provide and exchange personal information" and not exchanging information on current events.

This means that "individuals should not quote or share information from press agencies or websites of government agencies," said Hoang Vinh Bao, head of the broadcast and electronic information department, as reported in state-run news site, VNExpress.

In defence for what many see as a draconian rule, Le Nam Thang, deputy minister of information and communication, said the new regulations will help Internet users to "find correct and clean information on the Internet," the VietnamNet online newspaper reported.

Under the new law, Internet service providers will also be banned from making available "information that is against Vietnam, undermining national security, social order and national unity... or information distorting, slandering and defaming the prestige of organisations, honour and dignity of individuals."

With private media banned in the communist country, citizens are turning to social media and blogs for uncensored information other than the state press.

With the government's long history of strict policing to curb dissident commentary online, the rise of social media is seen as a threat to its grips of favoured information since postings are largely anonymous and content uncensored.

Although the decree has shed little light on how the law will be implemented or penalties faced, online commentators have reacted with fury at the restriction of public discourse.

The authorities want "to turn us into robots," wrote popular Vietnamese Facebook user, Nguyen Van Phuong.

"This decree clearly aims to muzzle the people," said respected Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Quang Vinh.

In what some see as an irony, the decree was announced just after Vietnam opted to be a candidate for membership of the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016.

This new rule has raised concerns of human right violations from many rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders, who labelled the country as an "Internet enemy" last year.

Currently ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the authoritarian country is also now second only to China in the number of detained dissidents.

 

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