Vietnam cracks down on celebrities and ordinary people for online comments

At least four people have been arrested since the beginning of the year, according to Radio Free Asia. A former Miss World contestant was fined for posting a gossipy video about the entertainment world. Despite opening up its economy, Vietnam censors social media.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnam continues to persecute people who express their opinions on social media.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen, creator of two popular YouTube political commentary channels, and Hoang Viet Khanh, a 41-year-old Facebook user accused of posting online material that smears “the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” were arrested last week.

Nguyen Le Nam Em, a former Miss World contestant, was fined VND 37.5 million (US$ 1,500) for posting a gossipy video about celebrities in which the country's former leader Ho Chi Minh was mentioned.

For the authorities, her “contents cause controversy, noise on social networks, and a lot of negative information.”

Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Hoang Viet Khanh were arrested under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which human rights activists say is used to restrict freedom of expression and repress dissent.

The police will hold Nguyen Chi Tuyen in jail for about four months while the investigation continues. Prior to his arrest, the YouTuber was asked to leave the country.

In his latest online broadcasts, he had commented on Sweden's accession to NATO and other events related to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

According to Radio Free Asia, four people have already been arrested this year alone, accused of sharing "anti-state" content on social media.

Despite greater overtures in trade and investment, Vietnam has intensified online censorship, Nikkei Asia reports.

The situation began to get worse in 2020, when Vietnam enacted Decree 15, which introduced penalties for those who spread fake news or “information that offends the reputation of agencies or organizations or the honor and dignity of individuals," the law firm Tilleke & Gibbins said.

Reacting to the fine imposed on Nguyen Le Nam Em, Vietnam's Ministry of Information reminded businesses that they have a responsibility to keep the internet "clean".

The Vietnamese government also issued a reminder that Vietnam, a major market for Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, published advertising blacklists and whitelists in 2023, with hundreds of social media pages.