The Vietnamese government is stepping up efforts to control Internet speech there, issuing new rules that limit online communications.
Vietnamese Government officials say that Decree 72, which was announced late last month, aims to protect intellectual property and foster development of the Internet in the Southeast Asian nation. The U.S. government, media, and civil society groups, however, see it as intended to stifle dissent and restrict free speech.
Decree 72 is inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Vietnam has one of the most restricted media environments in Asia, and officials there have acted to extend restrictions to the Internet as that medium has grown. Social media is especially popular in Vietnam, with Facebook registering more than 11 million users as of the first of the year. Authorities scrutinize postings for criticism of the government or Communism, and more than 40 Vietnamese using the Internet to voice dissent have been prosecuted and imprisoned in 2013 alone.
The United States has repeatedly spoken out about the need for Vietnam to respect its citizens’ exercise of universal human rights online. Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline, and Decree 72 is inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We are deeply concerned by the decree’s provisions that limit the types of information that individuals may share through social media and on websites. The effort could also hinder Vietnam’s economic development by crimping the country’s budding information technology sector and driving away needed foreign investment.
The United States has repeatedly raised its concerns about this decree with senior Vietnamese officials and we call on Vietnam’s government to respect the right to freedom of expression both offline and online.