Vietnam censors blogsWednesday, December 26, 2007 at 14:51 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Media | 2 Comments
The communist government of Vietnam plans to censor the Vietnamese blogosphere, AFP reports. According to a state media report released today, blogs must be controlled “to prevent the spread of subversive and sexually explicit content”.
Referring to anti-Chinese protests over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, Nguyen The Ky, head of the Press Management and Publishing Bureau, said in a statement reported by Than Nien News:
“It’s all right when some bloggers have recently showed their patriotism, posting opinions about the Paracels-Spratly Archipelago on their weblogs.
But some have sparked protests, causing public disorder and affecting the country’s foreign affairs. It’s impossible to control the internet, so I think we should bolster technical security measures in addition to creating regulations.”
Than Nien News also quotes Do Quy Doan, deputy minister for Information and Communications, as saying in a national media conference in Hanoi on Monday:
Controlling weblogs is about developing them in accordance with the law, not forbid-ding them. We should provide guidelines that help people know what type of information they can upload online.
Bloggers will have to be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access. Once we have obvious regulations, I think no one will be able to supervise weblogs better than the bloggers themselves.
It would no doubt be convenient for any government, let alone an authoritarian communist regime, if blogs only posted what is sanctioned by the government. That would of course make blogs as such obsolete. The Vietnamese government already controls what is published in the traditional media. Blogging is about increasing freedom of speech which is not what the Vietnamese government wants.
It would be interesting to learn what the deputy minister had in mind when he said that bloggers should “be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access”. I for one, have access to all the information and indeed dis-information in the Internet but I refuse to take responsibility of anything other than my own posts.
Blogs have been around in Vietnam for a relatively short time. Not only the government is confused about the new method of expressing opinion on line. The bloggers themselves and the main stream media also seem to be in the process of learning how to cope with the new media. Chao-Vietnam accounts for a number of blog wars which very much resemble the disputes common in the western blogosphere for a few years ago.
In a related article, 4DM reports that the Vietnamese government are planning to allow privately owned media publications in addition to the current state owned media. On the surface this may sound like increased press freedom but given the plan to limit freedom of speech in the blogs, one has serious doubts about how free the private media could be. By definiton, freedom of speech and a communist government do not go together.