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Freedom of Expression Online threatened by new Internet Decree in Vietnam

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PARIS, 23 July 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is gravely concerned by the adoption of the “Decree on Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Information Content Online” (Decree 72/2013-ND-CP) which imposes new restrictions on freedom of expression online. The Decree, adopted on 15 July, will come into force on 1 September 2013.

“As President Truong Tan Sang sets off to meet President Obama to promote the image of Vietnam abroad, freedom of expression continues to be suppressed at home”, said Vo Van Ai, VCHR President. “The new Internet Decree is fatally flawed and inconsistent with international human rights law and standards”.

Decree 72 requires Internet companies and other providers of information to Internet users in Vietnam to cooperate with the government in enforcing the prohibition of a range of vaguely-defined acts of expression. These “prohibited acts” include “abusing the provisions and use of the internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, “undermine the grand unity of the people”, “damage the prestige of organizations and the honour and dignity of individuals”, “undermine the fine customs and traditions of the nation” (Article 5). Article 25 requires the filtering of any information on the Internet based on the interpretation that such information is amongst the “prohibited acts” outlined in Article 5. Foreign Internet Service Providers will have to provide information about their users when requested by investigative bodies.

A draft of the Decree circulated by the Ministry of Information and Communication in April 2012 drew strong criticism from the international community, including an Urgent Resolution by the European Parliament in April 2013 which called on Vietnam to modify the Decree “to ensure that it protects the right to freedom of expression online”.

VCHR raised grave concerns about the draft Decree in its report “Bloggers and Netizens behind bars” published jointly with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), and called on Vietnam to put an end to censorship, both online and offline, and release all bloggers, online journalists, human rights defenders and dissidents detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

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