Hundreds of Vietnamese intellectuals and professionals have issued a statement protesting a new decree that includes provisions banning the sharing of news and information on various social networks.
The group, which includes Vietnamese inside the country and overseas, say the measure - known as Decree 72 - will seriously violate freedom of expression and is against Vietnam’s laws, constitution, and international commitments on human rights.
Nguyen Quang A, former chairman of the non-governmental Vietnam Association for Information and head of the Vietnam Institutes of Development Studies, is the leading co-signatory.
In an interview with VOA's Vietnamese service, he dismissed Hanoi's arguments in favor of the law. “The government’s argument saying that the decree is to protect intellectual property rights is totally quibble. There are already a great number of regulations in effect to protect copyrights, there’s no need to have Decree 72. This decree is a gross violation of people’s freedom of speech, it doesn’t have anything to do with intellectual property rights at all.”
He added he does not expect the statement to change the government's position, but hopes it will raise people's awareness.
The decree, which was announced in July and takes effect next month, mandates that blogs and social media sites should only be used to share personal information. It says users are "not allowed to quote, gather or summarize information from press organizations or government websites."
The United States, several human rights groups and such technology giants as Google and Facebook have criticized the decree.
The Asia Internet Coalition, formed by businesses such as eBay, Facebook, Google and Yahoo, has said the decree will "negatively affect Vietnam's Internet ecosystem" and deter foreign investors.
This report was prepared in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.