Vietnam Deploys Cybersecurity Law to Fine Social Media Users Accused of Defaming Police

Vietnam Deploys Cybersecurity Law to Fine Social Media Users Accused of Defaming Police

Social Media Users in Vietnam Fined Under Cybersecurity Law for Defaming Police

The Cyber ​​Security and High-Tech Crime Prevention Bureau of Binh Duong Provincial Police on March 2 said it had fined a Facebook user 7.5 million dong ($303) due to his alleged activity in “distributing false information that infringes on the legitimate rights and interests of agencies, organizations, and individuals.”

B.Đ.P. 34, the social media user whose name was written only in initials, was accused of violating Clause 1 of Article 8 in the 2018 Cybersecurity Law and Decree No. 15, a government decree issued in 2020 that regulates the publication and circulation of information on the internet.

According to the Binh Duong Police Department, P, who comes from the northern province of Cao Bang but currently lives in Thuan An City, Binh Duong Province, used his personal Facebook account to comment on a posting on "Cao Bang Security Television," a fan page managed by the province’s police department. In his posting, he condemned local police officers for covering up a homicide incident.

The Binh Duong Provincial Police declared that P’s comment contained “false and unverified information” aimed at “defaming the people’s public security force” and decided to fine him. The police added P had admitted that his comment on "Cao Bang Security Television" was false, saying that he only posted such comments “for fun” and did not intend to incite hatred against the police. He also reportedly removed the “insulting comment” and pledged not to do it again.

On March 1, the Son La Provincial Police Department also cited Decree No. 15 as the justification to fine Vang Thi Dua, 33, a member of an ethnic minority, 7.5 million dong for “infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of agencies, organizations, and individuals.”

The police said that on Feb. 23, Dua posted a comment on the Facebook page of Son La Public Security that “contained vulgar content” and “insulted the reputation and honor of the police force.” Her comment, however, has not been publicized.

Activist Huynh Truong Ca, a Former Member of the Constitutional Rights Advocacy Group, Finishes Prison Term

Vietnamese activist Huynh Truong Ca, a former member of the Constitution Group (Nhóm Hiến pháp), established to promote the civil rights and freedoms stated in Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution, completed his prison term and returned home on March 4. Ca told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that people must stand up and fight for their rights and that his advocacy stems from the desire for Vietnam to become more democratic. 

Ca was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018, on charges of “distributing anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. He once participated in a protest in Ho Chi Minh City against the draft laws on Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity. The Dong Thap Provincial Court sentenced him to five and a half years in prison. 

The activist did not hire a defense lawyer because he said he believed that anti-state trials in Vietnam are politically motivated and that the role of lawyers is limited in these hearings.

Meanwhile, the living conditions in pre-trial detention were harsh, Ca said, where detainees lacked clean water and the food was inedible. Before being arrested, Ca had a traffic accident, and his health weakened in prison due to adequate and timely treatment. During his imprisonment, he and other political prisoners in Xuan Loc Prison staged two short hunger strikes to protest the prison's refusal to allow prisoners to receive books from their families and to demand improved living conditions.

Vietnam Continues to Use Article 117 to Arrest Online Dissidents 

The Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention Department of Lam Dong Provincial Police has arrested a local Facebook user and charged him with Section 1 in Article 117 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the “distribution of anti-state propaganda,” Vietnam’s state media reported on March 2.

The police declared that Hoang Viet Khanh, 41, a social media user, had shared articles, video clips, and photos that “insult the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” They added that Khanh also “distorted history” and “defamed Ho Chi Minh and other Communist Party officials.”

Vietnam has repeatedly used the controversial Article 117 to crack down on free speech by prosecuting people for expressing their opinions on different social and political issues. The Lam Dong Provincial Police's security investigation agency said that Khanh’s online activities were “very dangerous” and that he needed to be criminally charged to demonstrate the strictness of the law. 

According to Radio Free Asia, as of March this year, Vietnam had arrested five people under Article 117.

Human Rights Watch Raises Human Rights Issues with Australian Prime Minister Amid ASEAN-Australia Leaders’ Summit

In a letter published on Feb. 28, the Australian director at Human Rights Watch, Daniela Gavshon, urged Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to raise human rights issues at a summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) scheduled between March 4 and 6 in Melbourne. The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations.

The letter stated that the human rights conditions in ASEAN countries had “worsened” in recent years and that Australia should raise its concerns over rights abuses with ASEAN leaders during this high-level meeting.

Regarding Vietnam’s situation, HRW said the Vietnamese government “systematically suppresses citizens’ basic rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement, and religion,” adding that “the Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country for almost five decades and severely punishes anyone that it deems challenges its monopoly on power.”

HRW recommended that the Australian government effectively discuss human rights with ASEAN countries. This includes holding direct conversations with each of these countries and using a human rights focus to link trade, security, and diplomatic rewards so that concrete improvements in human rights can occur.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam lists overseas dissident groups as 'terrorist organizations'

Reuters/March 6

“Vietnam has listed two political groups operating in the United States as ‘terrorist organizations,’ accusing them of orchestrating attacks and promoting a secessionist agenda, its internal security agency said on Wednesday.

The groups are the North Carolina-headquartered Montagnard Support Group Inc (MSGI) and Montagnard Stand for Justice (MSFJ), which was established in Thailand, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Both operate in the United States and are accused of involvement in deadly attacks in the Central Highlands region in June 2023 that killed nine people, including four policemen.

The U.S. embassy in Hanoi and the two groups did not immediately respond to separate Reuters requests for comment.

Montagnards, or ‘mountain people’ in French, are an ethnic minority from Vietnam's Central Highlands. Many are Protestant Christians who sided with the United States during the Vietnam War.”

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