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Vietnam announces big fines for social media 'propaganda'

Staff writer |
Vietnam will hand out fines of 100 million dong ($4735) to anyone criticising the government on social media, under a new law announced this week, the latest measure in a widening crackdown on dissent by the country's communist rulers.

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Comments that didn't constitute criminal offences would trigger fines if held to be "propaganda against the state", or spreading "reactionary ideology", according to the law signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Vietnam has repeatedly drawn fire for the harsh treatment and lengthy jail terms it has given to bloggers who criticised its one-party regime. The number of arrests and convictions has soared in the last four years. The new decree is vaguely worded and did not say what comments amounted to a criminal offence, which can be punished with prison, or an "administrative violation" that rates a fine.

Rights groups and foreign governments have come down hard on Vietnam over its draconian cyber laws, including the United States, which has urged Vietnam to improve its human rights record to strengthen its case for stronger trade ties. Media freedom campaigners Reporters Without Borders calls the country "an enemy of the internet".

The decree also said anyone posting online a map of Vietnam inconsistent with the country's sovereignty claims faced fines.