Have you ever felt like your voice is robbed away from you? And that you have to risk any consequences if you were to voice out your thoughts online?
That’s exactly what most of the Vietnamese netizens are facing now.
Earlier this week, two new fines have been introduced to further regulate Vietnam’s internet. The legislation, which will come into force in January, looks set to further narrow the space for online expression.
Decree 174/2013 (social media fine), follows up on Decree 72, which restricted the posting of news onto social media, but now it takes an even harder line with a fine of US$5,000. Comments that did not constitute criminal offences would trigger fines if held to be “propaganda against the state”, or spreading “reactionary ideology”, according to the law signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
The new decree is vaguely worded and no clear definitions are given as to what comments amounted to a criminal offence.
Other than the social media fine, another e commerce fine called Decree 185/2013 was also laid out. Under this Decree, if an e commerce website does not have a proper e commerce license to carry out its business, it could be fined anything from US$200 to US$1000. If the site operator posts incorrect and/or falsified information, the site operator might be liable for a US$1,000 to US$1,400 fine.
For the longest time, the Vietnamese government has been trying to repress and block content that fuels online dissidence. To say Vietnam has a troubled relationship with the Internet would be an understatement.
As we previously wrote, harassment and arrests by the government are common in Vietnam as some of the means to repress online freedom of speech. It’s estimated that Vietnam has imprisoned 46 bloggers and activists so far this year, second only to China, and it’s ranked 172nd out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
Earlier in September too, Vietnam passed a decree banning the sharing of news online, making it illegal for social media users to post information gathered from almost all news sources in the name of “national security” and preventing copyright infringement. The decree is also known as Decree 72.
Vietnam is currently listed 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.