CITIZEN journalists and bloggers are angered after Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security proposed a draft bill that bans the use of audio and video recording devices in the name of national security, as the authorities attempt to tame social media.
According to AFP, published on Radio Free Asia, the ministry proposed the draft bill last month, and also prohibits the use of disguised apps for recording purposes. It is unclear how the authorities would enforce this if it were approved, as modern-day smartphones and laptops can also be used as recording devices.
There is speculation that the draft bill is designed to stop people from recording police misconduct and brutality, which is common in the country.
Vietnamese police want to ban the use of recording devices—an apparent move to prevent reports of police misconduct. https://t.co/64sm3HLmhf
— Roseanne Gerin (@RoseanneGerin) April 13, 2017
Pham Chi, an independent journalist and blogger in Vietnam, told AFP that the ministry’s fear of social media and its rapid development in the country also contributed to the design of the bill.
He said that thanks to social media, video clips and pictures in which police corruption is recorded – especially traffic police, who are reportedly “notorious” for asking for bribes – has “damaged the entire image of the police”.
Other journalists concur, with freelance journalist Nguyen Thien Nhan saying that the bill would make things more “convenient” for the police to carry on as they are. He also warned that if the bill was approved, it would increase tension “between people and [the] police”.
In Vietnam, the mainstream media is controlled by the Communist Party, leaving little room for independent journalism. Many have turned to citizen journalism or blogging for freedom of expression, but they are routinely subjected to harassment, physical assault, and imprisonment.
The authorities have been rigorous in their clampdown on social media. In March, Vietnam began pressuring advertisers and companies, along with YouTube’s owner, Google, to remove “offensive” content – in this case, anything considered to be “anti-government”.
Vietnam’s track record for freedom of expression and media has been widely criticised, and the country ranks 175th out of 180 countries on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.