The government will announce new rules this month, stressing that weblogs should serve as personal online diaries, not as organs to disseminate opinions about politics, religion and society, senior officials were quoted as saying.
The regulations aim “to create a legal base for bloggers and related agencies to tackle violations in the area of blogging,” said Information and Communication Deputy Minister Do Quy Doan, according to the Thanh Nien daily.
The ministry “will contact Google and Yahoo! for cooperation in creating the best and the healthiest environment for bloggers,” he added.
The proposals follow the jailing in September of the high-profile blogger Dieu Cay — real name Nguyen Hoang Hai — for two and a half years on tax fraud charges. His appeal hearing is set for Thursday, court officials said.
Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders charged that he was punished for criticising China’s claims over disputed South China Sea islands and called on the court “to acquit this cyber-dissident.”
The territorial issue is seen as highly sensitive by the Vietnam and Chinese governments.
Vietnam’s blogosphere has exploded in recent years, with school children to newspaper editors freely sharing their thoughts in a way that has not been possible in the state-controlled media.
Most users have chatted about lifestyle and personal issues, but some online writers have strayed into sensitive political areas and incurred the wrath of the authorities, with several bloggers, including Cay, ending up in prison.
The director of the state-run Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre, Nguyen Tu Quang, last month said under draft rules being debated, violators could face 12,000-dollar fines and up to 12 years jail.
“This is quite a strict punishment but perfectly suitable for those who intentionally release incorrect information about religion, the political system, state and government of Vietnam,” Quang was quoted as saying.
The OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration by experts from Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and other universities, warned in a report last year that political Internet filtering in Vietnam is “pervasive.”
“Vietnam’s filtering regime is multi-layered, relying not only on computing technology but also on threats of legal liability, state-based and private monitoring of users’ online activities, and informal pressures such as supervision by employees or other users in cyber-cafes,” the report said.