By Lila Ojha Dhakal
Reviewed by Tabu Butagira
The rising number of bloggers in Vietnam has in recent years challenged the country’s Communist Party’s monopoly over the media. Using pseudo names, more citizens have come out to write about things affecting ordinary Vietnamese, publishing stories and commentaries that reveal the government’s irresponsibility toward society.
Because the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party state, all news outlets in the country are owned and controlled by the government in power. They censor all the news. There are no privately run media houses in Vietnam where alternative views can be expressed.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ’s) 2014 report on “Attacks on the Press”, Vietnam is Asia’s second worst jailer of journalists after China.
Many local bloggers are motivated by a sense of injustice in Vietnamese society. Nguyen Anh Tuan, a Vietnamese lawyer and legal activist, told CPJ of a case when local bloggers used Facebook to publish a story where contaminated vaccines produced by a state-owned company killed children. The country’s mainstream media had for unexplained reason not covered the news.
Citizens’ follow-up investigative reports posted on blogs revealed that some 20 children had died from the same vaccine since 2010 without the government taking responsibility. Then more than 10, 000 Vietnamese social media users signed a petition on Facebook calling for the Minister of Health’s resignation over the deaths.
Tuan says Facebook and Google pages allow people to comment on and share ideas. The Vietnamese government responded by enacting legislation, prohibiting Vietnamese bloggers and other Internet users from linking to or re-posting articles gleaned from foreign government websites.
Blogger Nguyen Lan Thang is quoted in the CPJ report to have been accused of involvement in anti-state activities, interrogated and detained multiple times. He had, among other things, re-posted articles critical of the Communist Party, its leadership and policies. Those fears were compounded by a new decree enacted on
A September 2013 law specifically targeting bloggers and social media users gave government officials additional powers to muzzle free press and further whittle down the limited democratic space.
The decree places global Internet companies more firmly under Vietnamese law, although their servers are outside Vietnam. This decree holds such companies responsible if they allow their communication infrastructure to be used for circulating information that government officials deem to be against the state of the social order, national unity or promoting war propaganda, revelation of state secrets, including those related to the military, other security organs and foreign affairs.
Local Bloggers believe the authorities are making preparation to block Facebook and Google altogether and replace them with local alternatives – similar to China’s efforts to assert control over its Internet by developing indigenous search engines and social media services.
The son of Prime Minister Nguyen Dung and a member of the Communist Youth Union are working to develop a local social media network to compete with or possibly substitute Facebook.
This kind of overbearing government reach has local bloggers fear worried about their personal and professional life.