A Facebook user in Vietnam has been fined VND 7.5 million (U.S.$ 323) by authorities in Bac Giang province for “slanderous acts, distorting and affecting the honor and reputation of the police force.”
State media cited a source from the Son Dong District police as saying the 35-year-old owner of the Facebook account P*****R***, who had the initials NVP and lived locally, posted an article titled: “Crackdown on brothels hiding in the shadow of Karaoke bars.”
NVP added the comment: “The crackdown was for show. Maybe policemen go singing more [than ordinary people],” with the implication that “singing” was not the only activity the police were taking part in.
NVP was fined in accordance with Point A, Clause 1, Article 101, Decree 15 of the government regulations on penalties for administrative violations in the fields of post, telecommunications, radio frequencies, information technology and electronic transactions, often used to punish those accused of spreading “fake news” online.
In another unrelated case Vietnamese are still trying to track down a gamer who made disparaging comments as she streamed herself playing League of Legends on the Facebook Gaming platform.
“People who often watch 18+ movies tend to be a little bald,” said Nguyen Thi Thanh Loan, also known as Milona, who has more than 200,000 Facebook followers.
“Perhaps as they don’t do a damned thing but watch 18+ movies at home all day, state presidents all go bald,” she said.
Even though Loan did not mention specific heads of state or specific countries, many Vietnamese Facebook users and state media suggested she should be punished if the comments referred to one of the country’s four top leaders.
Vietnamese citizens who turn to social media to air their grievances run a high risk of falling foul of the law, especially if their target is the police force, communist party or government officials.
In June former policeman Le Chi Thanh was sentenced to three years in prison for defaming an unnamed deputy minister of public security. His lawyer said the prosecution relied on videos Thanh posted on Facebook as evidence against him, claiming they were “distorted and untrue.”
It was the second sentence for the former captain, who was an officer at Ham Tan prison camp but lost his job for accusing a prison superintendent of corruption.
After being sacked Thanh became active on social media, live-streaming the activities of the traffic police.
In April, 2021, he was arrested under the charge of “resisting on-duty state officials” and sentenced to two years in prison.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication says it is cracking down on “online fake and malicious news,” spread by users in a country where tens of millions of people use social networking sites every day despite tough censorship.
Information and Communications Minister Nguyen Manh Hung said this month that global platforms such as Facebook had increased their response to Vietnamese removal requests from 20% in 2018 to as much as 95% today. However, he added that the number of “fake news” stories had increased 20-fold since 2018 to around 100,000 stories and videos a day.