Vietnam to fine people who use social media to critique the government

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People who protest the government in Vietnam may receive a 100 million dong ($4,740) fine, under a new law announced this week.

The news, first reported by Reuters, is the latest in a slew of efforts to crack down on communist dissenters. The government is taking a hard line, with the number of arrests and convictions of bloggers and dissidents soaring in the past four years.

The law is fairly vague, but states that it will punish people who spread “propaganda against the state” or “reactionary ideology.” The law was signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi has said it is “deeply concerned” by this law and that it has reached out to senior officials in the Vietnamese government. “Fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline,” the embassy said on its website.

Nonprofit organizations and foundations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have also spoken out against this decree. “Internet freedom has gone from bad to worse in Vietnam,” a blog post states.

Internet penetration is soaring in Vietnam, with about a third of the country’s estimated 90 million people connected.

However, these Internet users face increasing restrictions. Vietnam was named one of the “enemies of the Internet” by Reporters without Borders, a Paris based organization that advocates for freedom of the press.

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