The US has attacked Vietnam over its plans to introduce laws to control and monitor the type of material citizens can publish and share online, claiming that they contradict basic human rights.
The calls may raise criticisms from web freedom advocates, as they come in the wake of revelations of huge-scale internet monitoring by the US under its PRISM programme, which was also slammed as a potential breach of human rights.
The law, called Decree 72, is set to come into force on 1 September, and covers the “management, provision and use of internet services and online information” in the country. This includes banning the publication of material relating to the government or that "harm national security".
However, the US Embassy in Vietnam has hit out at the plans, urging the nation to “respect the right to freedom of expression” and allow its citizens to use the web as they wish, as outlined under human rights laws.
“Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline. Decree 72 appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the US said
“We are deeply concerned by the decree’s provisions that appear to limit the types of information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites.
“In addition, this decree will limit the development of Vietnam’s budding IT sector by hampering domestic innovation and deterring foreign investment.
The decision was also condemned by the Asia Internet Coalition, with its executive director John Ure writing that it was “unfortunate” that the country had taken such “a restrictive policy approach towards the management of the internet”.
“We believe that the decree will negatively affect Vietnam's internet ecosystem,” he said. “In the long term, the decree will stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam, thereby hindering Vietnam's goal to establish itself as an advanced competitive ICT nation.”
The statements are ironic given that the US has recently been found to be monitoring billions of internet messages under its wide-ranging PRISM programme. This has been used to capture huge amounts of data on web communications and the US is even reported to have paid the UK to do similar work.
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