09/02/2013, 00.00
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Hanoi against internet, outlaws talking about politics and news

Decree 72 blocks the dissemination of information on blogs and social networks. Comments that are sensitive or against Vietnam are also punished. However, the new rules do not clearly define the terms of possible violation and leaves the authorities with ample scope for interpretation, intervention and punishment. For internet giants, the decree "stifle innovation".

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A new controversial law regulating internet use has come into effect in Vietnam, in order to prevent bloggers and social network users to discuss news-related politics or events.

Signed into law by the prime minister in early August, Decree 72 allows people to post online only personal information and punishes anyone who discusses current affairs or news sensitive to the life of the state.

In addition, Internet providers are tasked with blocking stories against Vietnam or that could endanger "national security."

New government rules impose limits and restrictions on foreign internet companies as well, including the obligation to keep local servers inside Vietnam, thus ensuring greater control.

The law does not however set any precise limits to the law, thus leaving considerable scope for the authorities interpret it, intervene upon it and punish violators.

Human rights activists and international organisations have strongly criticised the new legislation with one group calling it "the harshest offensive against freedom of information" in the country since its prime minister signed tough sanctions against media in 2011.

This year alone, dozens of activists, including many bloggers, have been arrested and charged with activities against the state.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies like Google and Facebook, said the move would "stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam".

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has previously labelled Vietnam an enemy of the internet and ranks the nation 172 out of 179 in its press freedom index.

In fact, the Communist regime does not allow private newspapers and TV channels to operate. All media are state-owned. This is why many Vietnamese prefer to go online or use social networks to find information with many of them reacting angrily to the new rules without success.

For the record, Vietnam jails the second highest number of most bloggers and cyber-dissidents in the world. According to RSF, 35 people currently imprisoned.

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