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Restrictions on Social Media Target Vietnamese Citizen Journalists

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, August 5 2013

Nguyen Tan Dung, PM of Vietnam (Wikipedia>)

An amendment to Vietnam's already draconian Internet laws bans Internet users from sharing “compiled information” on their websites, blogs or social media pages. The decree will make the government's ongoing persecution of activist bloggers and citizen journalists completely legal. Signed into law by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on July 15, the new regulations will go into effect September 1.

In September 2012, after the Decree on the Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Internet Content Online was first introduced, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the language of the decree “alarmingly vague.”

True to form, the recent additions fit the original bill. Clause 20.4 states:

[A] 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.

It also bans people from posting “general information.” I would challenge anyone to be any more vague than that.

When asked for clarification, Hoang Vinh, the head of the Broadcast and Electronic Information Department, said “individuals should not quote or share information from press agencies or websites of government agencies.”

The Bangkok Post quotes Bao as saying, “Personal electronic sites are only allowed to put news owned by that person, and are not allowed to 'quote', 'gather' or summarise [sic] information from press organisations [sic] or government websites.”

There are fears that even sharing links on Facebook or on a blog will be construed as a violation.

The Vietnamese authorities are practiced censors. Last September they handed out hefty jail sentences to three activist bloggers—up to 12 years with an additional five years of house arrest. Earlier this year the government admitted to hiring bloggers to push their Communist agenda online.

The Bangkok Post quoted a Western diplomat who wished to remain anonymous as saying the government was already arresting political bloggers, but that the changes to the law would give them “a piece of paper to point to” as justification.

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