Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Internet censorship is getting tighter in Vietnam. In recent days, student and young people have complained that local authorities have partially or wholly blocked access to sites like Facebook, the BBC Vietnamese service and Vietnamese media based abroad. “Many websites writing about democracy, freedom, justice and peace cannot be opened,” Hanoi Catholics told AsiaNews.
At present, Vietnam has 24 million internet users. About 90 per cent of students in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City use the World Wide Web for their research. More than 60 per cent of young and middle aged people use internet at home or at cybercafés.
Some shops have added internet access to increase business. Last month, the authorities forced to install special software to track a user’s activities for 30 days.
In interviews, officials, professors, reporters, socialists and even educators who work for the government said, “In Vietnam, we have not yet obtained the right to free speech or free information. ‘Radicals’ can never hope or try to access ‘sensitive topics’ and have to be reasonable to live”.
Dorothy Chou, a policy analyst at Google, recently looked at the Vietnamese government’s new internet regulations. She found that Vietnamese authorities now have the means to “block access to websites, as well as to track user activities”.
Nguyen Phuong Nga, a spokesman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, explained, “On 26 April 2010, the People’s Committee of Hanoi City made a decision with No. 15/2010/QD-UBND on the ‘Principles regarding the management of internet services by internet agents in Hanoi City. It said that ‘Vietnam respects the right to information, communication and free speech but it also enforces the laws of Vietnam.’ People who think the government threatens freedom of thought have no logical basis for that”.
In Ho Chi Minh City, people told AsiaNews that “local authorities are blocking all 'radical sites’.” This has pushed cybercafés to install programmes with violent games. Children and young people end up spending time and money on them. They live in a virtual world and have no relations with their families and communities.
One cybercafé manager in the capital said that since people cannot open sites that discuss democracy, freedom, justice and peace, “to make money I had to install violent and deceitful games”.