Censorship

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Censorship
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Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country which mainly practices Buddhism.

General censorship[]

  • Although the 2013 constitution recognizes freedom of expression, opinion, speech and of the press, the exercise of these freedoms in Vietnam is significantly constrained by censorship in many areas. Topics such as political dissidents, acts of corruption by top Communist Party leaders, the legitimacy of the Communist Party, Sino-Vietnamese relations and human rights issues are forbidden topics and are censored in a variety of ways by the Communist Party, including the use of physical intimidation, imprisonment, destruction of materials and cyber-attacks on websites.

Movie censorship[]

  • Xich lo (Cyclo) - this film was banned as the censors deemed it too "westernized" in its portrayal of urban poverty in Vietnam.
  • Green Dragon and We Were Soldiers - these war films were banned in Vietnam as of 2002
  • Sex and the City 2 - this film was banned due to a conflict of "cultural values"
  • The Hunger Games - this film was banned for depicting extreme violence and killings
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - this film was not released by the distributor Sony Pictures, after not accepting the requirement of the Vietnamese National Film Board of cutting some sensitive scenes.
  • Abominable - this animated film was banned because of its depicting of the Nine-Dash Line used by the People's Republic of China to lay claim on parts of the South China Sea.

Internet censorship[]

Overview[]

Internet arrived in Vietnam in 1997, after years of tests and deliberations by the Party's Central Committee on how to address the Internet's "bad influences". All internet service providers in Vietnam can only connect to state-controlled Internet exchange points, making filtering easier. There are three major Internet Service Providers in Vietnam, which are VNPT, FPT and Viettel, all of them owned by the government. Collectively, these three ISPs control more than 90% of the market. To operate a local website in Vietnam, a Vietnamese domain has to be registered, requiring the website to be hosted on Vietnamese computers within Vietnam – so that the state can have greater control over the published content on the website.

The Communist Party has undertaken more restrictive measures as a result of the increasing challenges blogs and social media have presented to the Party. In 2008, the Ministry of Information and Communications introduced new rules banning Internet content which "opposes the state ... undermines national security, social order and safety, causes conflict or discloses national security, military or economic secrets" – a very broad definition allowing for many types of Internet content to be banned.

Blogs, in particular, have increased in political importance since 2006, such that the Vietnamese blogosphere today is an "active online public sphere" and blogs are seen by many Vietnamese as a source of alternative viewpoints from official government media. Activist bloggers have written about controversial subjects in Vietnam such as human rights, freedom and democracy, and some have even questioned the legitimacy of the Communist Party's right to rule and criticised important political figures. Some of these blogs are extremely popular, with readerships exceeding those of state-run websites. To censor such material, the Communist Party employs methods such as sending malware to bloggers, abusing the bloggers verbally or physically, and imprisoning the bloggers.

Although the Communist Party does suppress blogs which it deems problematic, it has also harnessed the outreach of blogs for its own purposes. Factionalism between rival groups in the Communist Party has led to blogs being used "as tools to expose political scandals and infighting among political elites". Political blogs are thus not always censored in a blanket fashion, but are sometimes used by rival Party factions to promote or discredit certain individuals. The Communist Party itself employs pro-Party bloggers to praise the Party and its policies. The state Propaganda and Education Department employs 900 employees, managing about 400 online accounts and 20 blogs so as to "monitor and direct online discussions on everything from foreign policy to land rights".

Unlike China, where censorship policies have managed to successfully block many foreign websites and created Chinese substitutes for major sites like Google and Facebook, Vietnam has been far less successful in Internet censorship in this regard, with Vietnamese substitutes such as Vinaseek and go.vn being poorly received. Bass considers that "Western technology arrived too suddenly and was embraced too enthusiastically to be blocked". Vietnam has about 55 million regular Facebook users, while YouTube and Google Search are extremely popular. Former Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng considered it impractical to ban Facebook, noting that many government officials used it themselves.

As a consequence, unlike China, Vietnam can only block online content after it has been put up, resulting in many bloggers are beaten up after posting anti-government material as a form of physical intimidation, and people can be imprisoned for their online posts. Circa 200 activists and bloggers are imprisoned for criticism of the government on the Internet. In 2016, the blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who criticized the government's reaction to a chemical dump by a Formosa Steel plant, was arrested by the government. This is an instance of the Vietnamese government using vague national security laws to punish bloggers. In August 2018, a Việt Tân member was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for Facebook posts which were considered by the government as an attempt to overthrow the state. In July 2020, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, a 29-year-old Facebook user, was sentenced to eight years in prison by the court for making anti-government posts, including several criticising communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Moreover, the Vietnamese government is also known for hack online accounts of Vietnamese bloggers and other Internet activists, reporting Facebook pages of anti-government users as spam in order to get their pages taken down, or blackmail Internet activists with stolen personal information. In order to better monitor articles posted online by local websites, the Vietnam Journalists Association, which is linked to the government, launched dedicated software in 2017. The Ministry of Information and Communications also commenced a software project to manage "misleading" information on the Internet.

Vietnam-based websites and social network operators are required to allow their check local servers being checked by the government upon request, as well as possessing a method to remove content within three hours of notification by the government, which does not apply to websites and social network operators based outside the country. However, under a 2018 cybersecurity law approved by the National Assembly, this loophole in censorship looks set to be closed from 2019. Global technology firms such as Facebook and Google would be required under the law to store personal data on Vietnamese users in Vietnam itself, potentially allowing to force the companies to provide the Vietnamese state with this personal data and to censor unwanted online posts.

Instances of Internet censorship[]

  • Politically, morally or religiously sensitive are blocked by the state. Any company and organization which operate websites containing material relating to "politics, economics, culture and society" or social networks is required by law to register with the government, as well as to maintain a server within Vietnam to facilitate government requests for information.
  • In various Vietnamese Internet cafés, access to "subversive" (that is, anything that could undermine the Communist Party and its one-party rule stability) or pornographic sites is forbidden.
  • Most websites specific to Vietnam which are either written in Vietnamese or deal with issues related to Vietnam are blocked. This is rarely enforced with the sites written in English, though.
  • Radio Free Asia websites in Vietnamese and in English are blocked.
  • British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) website (www.bbc.co.uk) is also blocked, although intermittently.
  • A number of Internet service providers based on technology deep packet inspection is still blocked as of 2021.
  • Medium
  • Although "obscene" content is one of the main reasons cited by the government for Internet censorship,very few websites with pornography are censored in Vietnam. While some sites such as Facebook and YouTube are considered by the media representatives in Vietnam to be blocked due to economic reasons as they account for 70%–80% of international bandwidth runs through without bringing profits to the home, some local feedback asked if thousands of porn websites were profitable for the network without being blocked. In November 2019, Vietnamese internet service providers such as Viettel, VNPT, FPT Telecom, etc. may have blocked a mass of porn sites silently or officially. Either this has been announced is not clear.

Television censorship[]

Main article: Southeast Asia TV censorship

Before 2000 only two state-owned television channels were available in Vietnam.  Since then, there are multiple television channels available, including international channels such as BBC World News or CNN International.  However, international channels are delayed of 10 seconds to allow censors to stop any broadcasts which are politically sensitive. Television content about the Vietnam War, the Cold War or events in China have been blocked using this method, preventing them from being broadcast. Satellite television is officially restricted, although some people in Vietnam do continue to use their own home satellite equipment to receive satellite television.

Books censorship[]

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