Vietnam has issued a new decree regulating the activities of journalists and bloggers that includes provision for fines of up to 40 million dong (2,000 dollars) in a country in which the average salary is 126 dollars.
“The government is demonstrating its determination to tighten its grip on news and information just as the ruling Communist Party is holding its congress,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This decree is trying to apply the censorship already in force for traditional media to blogs.”
The press freedom organization added: “The protection of the confidentiality of sources is seriously threatened by this decree. The government is going after online anonymity by trying to prevent bloggers from using pseudonyms. This could make it easier for the authorities both to harass them and to arrest and jail them.”
Signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and due to take effect next month, the decree makes it an offence to publish information that is “non-authorised” or “not in the interests of the people.” By interpreting these vague definitions broadly, the authorities will be able to increase the number of arrests of blogger and journalists.
The decree also provides for fines of up to 3 million dong (155 dollars) for anyone who publishes documents or letters without identifying themselves or revealing their sources, and for up to 20 million dong if the documents are linked to an official investigation.
With a total of 15 netizens and three journalists currently detained, Vietnam is already the world’s second biggest prison for netizens. It was ranked 165th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”