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Asia-pacific

Vietnam tightens control of subversive blogs

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Latest update : 2008-12-24

Vietnam has tightened state control of internet blogs which "opposes the state and undermines national security and social order and safety," and has asked online service providers to provide data on users.

AFP - Vietnam has tightened curbs on bloggers to ban views seen as opposing the state or undermining national security, according to a new edict which asks online service providers to provide data on users.

The Internet has given Vietnamese people a forum to express themselves that cannot be found in the traditional media, which are closely controlled by the communist authorities.

It has produced a flourishing blogosphere, but the government said earlier this month it wanted closer regulation.

The new circular, of which AFP obtained a copy Wednesday, stipulates blogs are to display private content, and must not "provide, transmit or have direct links" to information that would violate another regulation from earlier this year.

That regulation bans online behaviour that "opposes the state... undermines national security and social order and safety," causes conflict, or discloses national security, military or economic secrets.

Thanh Nien newspaper earlier said this month that authorities would contact Internet giants Google and Yahoo! for their cooperation "in creating the best and healthiest environment for bloggers."

The new circular asks "enterprises specialised in providing social online services" to build up a database on blogs under their supervision and provide information to authorities on request, as well as to eliminate content which may contravene regulations.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders lists Vietnam as among the "enemies of the Internet" with censorship practices "almost as thorough as those of its Chinese big sister."

Nevertheless, criticism of authorities has emerged online in the past year, notably over the way Hanoi is handling a territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Both nations claim sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracel islands, and the dispute sparked rare demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city a year ago.

The issue is politically very sensitive, hindering the further development of relations between the communist allies, and is hardly ever mentioned in the press here -- and any references are brief and cautious.

Vietnam courts have already jailed a number of cyber-dissidents and earlier this month upheld a prison sentence of two and a half years on a high-profile blogger.

Dieu Cay, whose real name is Nguyen Hoang Hai, had been found guilty of tax fraud, although Reporters Without Borders claims he is in fact being punished for criticising Beijing's policy in the South China Sea.

Date created : 2008-12-24

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