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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

MARCH 2004
Posted: May 17, 2004

All media

Vietnam's Official Gazette announced tight regulations on providing and using the Internet in Internet cafés in an apparent attempt to silence online dissent.

Under Decision No. 71/2004, which took effect in March following the announcement in the Gazette, "detecting and stopping acts of taking advantage of Internet services to infringe upon national security or social order and safety" is the responsibility of Internet service providers (ISPs), Internet café owners, and individual Internet users in Vietnam, who all must "bear responsibility for information they store or transmit on the Internet."

Under the decision, it is prohibited to use the Internet to "infringe on national security"; store information classified as "state secrets" on Internet-connected computers; and access foreign ISPs to visit Web sites that have been "banned by competent State management agencies."

In Vietnam, "state secrets" is a broadly defined term that can include basic economic data or unsanctioned political reporting.

In addition, under Decision 71, Internet café owners are required to coordinate with the Ministry of Public Security and other state agencies in "discovering, stopping, and handling acts of taking advantage of the Internet to carry out activities infringing upon national security or social order and safety."

The policy requires ISPs to store on their servers for 15 days information posted and transmitted on the Internet. Internet café owners are also required to record "full and detailed information" about their customers, including names, addresses, and serial numbers from ID cards or passports.

Failing to comply with the regulations can result in a fine of up to 50 million dongs (US$3,290) or criminal prosecution, according to the Gazette.

State media, including An Ninh The Gioi (World Security), a newspaper operated by public security officials, reported the regulations in May. The paper quoted a police officer who helped write the new policy as saying that, "IDs or passports are now required at Internet cafés, just like at boarding gates for flights," according to The Associated Press.

Many of these regulations were already unofficially in place since a crackdown on Internet dissent began in 2002. In June 2002, the Ministry of Culture and Information called on owners of Internet cafés to monitor their customers' online activities to prevent them from accessing "state secrets" or "reactionary" documents.

December 3, 2004
Posted: Januray 05, 2005

Do Nam Hai, freelance

Writer Hai, who has penned articles critical of the Vietnamese government under the name Phuong Nam, was detained and held for 24 hours. A man whom the writer identified as a plainclothes police officer recently confiscated Hai’s computer and said he would remove documents from it.

In late December, sources close to the journalist told CPJ he fears that authorities are planning to arrest him.

In the last five months, authorities have repeatedly detained Hai for interrogation. On August 6, police held him for two days.

While living in Australia in 2000 and 2001, Hai, who now works at a bank in Ho Chi Minh City, posted on the Internet a series of long articles on Vietnamese history and politics. The five articles, which included “Vietnam, My Land” and “Writing about President Ho Chi Minh,” expressed his thoughts on aspects of Vietnamese history, called for democracy and a multiparty system, and proposed ideas for peaceful political reform.

On December 10, Hai wrote an open letter to the Vietnamese government disclosing his full name and address, reiterating thoughts expressed in his articles, and detailing the harassment he has faced from authorities during recent months.

“You labeled my articles ... as counter-revolutionary, against the Party and the government,” he wrote. “But I have a different opinion; I believe they are materials for democracy.”

Four Vietnamese writers—Nguyen Khac Toan, Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Hong Son, and Nguyen Dan Que—are currently imprisoned for writing or distributing articles criticizing the government.