HANOI — Vietnam’s restrictions on the news media and Internet sites such as Facebook threaten the country’s rapid economic progress, Western donors told an annual meeting of World Bank and other officials on Thursday.
“Economic growth and development requires an open and transparent environment for all stakeholders, Vietnamese and international,” US ambassador Michael Michalak told the opening session of talks between Vietnam and its aid-givers, known as the Consultative Group.
There has been a “shrinking of the space for honest, reliable information” recently, Michalak told the two-day meeting where pledges of aid are announced.
Michalak and the Swedish ambassador, Rolf Bergman, both expressed concern about recent reports that the world’s most popular online social networking site, Facebook, is being restricted.
“This is not about teenagers chatting online. It is a question of people’s rights to communicate with one another, share ideas and to do business,” Michalak said.
An Internet provider said last month that Vietnam’s public security ministry had ordered blockage of the site which, like other online platforms, offers room for expression not permitted in traditional media which are all linked to the communist state.
The Minister of Information and Communication, Le Doan Hop, last month indicated to legislators that he wanted to reinforce control of the Internet. He said “toxic and bad-intentioned information” has sometimes circulated in cyberspace.