Rafael Martnez, “Twitter: Esos Malditos 140 Caracteres” [Twitter: Those Damned 140 Characters], SoyRafael.com, February 22, 1010, http://soyrafael.com/2010/02/22/twitter-esos-malditos-140-caracteres/ (in Spanish). Article 285 of the penal code states: “Anyone who incites disobedience of the laws or hatred among its people or makes apology for acts that the law provides as crimes, so as to endanger the public peace, shall be punished with imprisonment of three years to six years.” “El tweet ‘desestabilizador’” [The ‘Destabilizing’ Tweet], Cdigo Venezuela, July 8, 2010, http://www.codigovenezuela.com/2010/07/el-tweet-desestabilizador/ (in Spanish).
National Assembly, “Imputada en caso de desestabilizacin bancaria niega su responsabilidad” [Suspect in Case of Bank Destabilization Denies Responsibility], news release, July 21, 2010, http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ve/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=26011:imputada-en-caso-dedesestabilizacion-bancaria-niega-su-responsabilidad-&Itemid=50&lang=es (in Spanish); Reporters Without Borders, “Twitter Users Formally Charged, Banned from Posting Messages,” IFEX, July 14, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/venezuela/2010/07/14/twitter_users_arrested/.
“Designan a Fiscal en caso de twittero por incitar al magnicidio” [Prosecutor Assigned in Case of Twitterer Charged with Inciting Assassination], La Patilla, September 9, 2010, http://www.lapatilla.com/site/2010/09/09/cicpc-detuvo-a-trabajadorde-corpoelec-por-incitar-al-magnicidio-a-traves-de-twitter/ (in Spanish); “Venezuelan Released After Arrest for Twitter Post,” Associated Press, September 10, 2010, http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2010/09/10/venezuelan_released_after_arrest_for_twitter_post /.
VENEZUELA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net was being detained because they were sure he would post the photos on Twitter.67 After a few hours Fuentes was released without charges.
In another case, in March 2006, a judge ordered the pretrial detention of Gustavo Azcar, a newscaster and political commentator for the local television station Televisora del Tachira, and a correspondent for the national daily El Universal. Azcar was facing trial on charges of illegal profit, fraud, and forgery, but the case appeared to be a politically motivated retaliation for his regular criticism of the government. Fifteen days after the detention order, Azcar won the right to be judged while remaining outside custody, on the condition, among some others, that he refrain from speaking publicly about the case. In July 2009 he was returned to prison for publishing on his website articles that his colleagues had written about his case. In March 2010 he was convicted of the original crimes and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Since he had already served eight months behind bars and his supposed crimes were not serious, he was allowed to remain free, though he must report regularly to the courts.The constitution prohibits anonymity,69 and the rule applies to all media. Since 2005,70 Conatel has required mobile-phone operators to collect copies of their subscribers’ identity documents, address, fingerprints, and signature. According to the Computer Crimes Act, this information must be delivered to the state security agencies upon request.
The service providers are also obliged to keep detailed logs of all calls, including the phone number of the caller, the destination phone number, the date, time, and duration of the call, the location and direction of the base station where the call is initiated, and the location and direction of the base station where the call is received, provided it belongs to the same network. The Law Against Kidnapping and Extortion obliges the providers of telecommunications, banking, or financial services to supply required data to the Public Ministry upon request. National Assembly deputies from the ruling party have reported receiving complaints from law enforcement agencies that only the state-owned Movilnet provides information immediately.71 Cybercafe customers are not required to register their identity documents to gain internet access, and there are no known cases in which such users’ activities have been tracked.
“‘Seguir usando el Metro y denunciando fallas del servicio’” [Will Continue Using the Metro and Reporting Service Failures], El Universal, November 3, 2010, http://www.eluniversal.com/2010/11/03/ccs_art_seguire-usando-el-m_2090854.shtml (in Spanish); IPYS, “Journalist Briefly Detained by Police,” IFEX, November 4, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/venezuela/2010/11/04/fuentes_detained/.
; Daniel Cancel, “Gustavo Azcar Released on Parole,” Latin America Herald Tribune, http://laht.com/article.aspCategoryId=10717&ArticleId=231941; http://cpj.org/2010/03/venezuela-journalist-azocarconvicted-on-retaliato.php, accessed March 9, 2011.
Article 57: “Everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts, ideas or opinions orally, in writing or any other form of expression, and to make use of any means of communication and diffusion, and no censorship shall be established. Anyone making use of this right assumes full responsibility for everything expressed. Anonymity, war propaganda, discriminatory messages or those promoting religious intolerance are not allowed.” Gaceta Oficial no. 38.157, April 1, 2005, http://www.tsj.gov.ve/gaceta/abril/010405/010405-38157-20.html (in Spanish).
“Presionan a brindar informacin personal” [Pressure to Provide Personal Information], BlackBerryVzla.com, June 24, 2010, http://www.blackberryvzla.com/2010/06/presionan-brindar-informacion-personal.html (in Spanish).
VENEZUELA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Article 22 of the Special Law Against Information Crimes penalizes disclosure, dissemination, or misuse of personal information with two to six years in prison and heavy fines. Nevertheless, opinion programs transmitted by the state-owned television channel regularly air recordings of government opponents’ telephone conversations, and no investigations or sanctions have ever resulted from the disclosures.
In July 2007, journalist Roger Santodomingo resigned as director of Noticiero Digital after his son received threats and his car was set on fire in front of his house.72 However, this has been the only case of its kind to date. There have been no reported instances of hacking or denial-of-service attacks on opposition websites.
“‘Estall camioneta del periodista Roger Santodomingo” [Journalist Roger Santodomingo’s Truck ‘Exploded’], Correo del Caron, July 5, 2007, http://www.correodelcaroni.com/archivo/archivo.phpid=71460 (in Spanish).
VENEZUELA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net VIETNAM 2009 POPULATION: 88.9 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Not INTERNET PENETRATION: 31 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: Yes Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: Yes Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: Yes Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION The internet in Vietnam has undergone impressive development over the past decade, and is now accessed by over a quarter of the population. Since the medium’s introduction in 1997, the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has demonstrated concern that the internet could be used to challenge its monopoly on political power, leading to contradictory policies designed to support or suppress online activities.
In recent years, the government has invested in expanding citizens’ access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), as seen in the so-called Taking-Off Strategy 2011–2020,1 which aims to raise Vietnam’s ICT sector to the level of its regional neighbors. At the same time, the government has intensified its efforts to monitor and censor online content. After a relative easing of repression from 2004 to 2006 as Vietnam prepared to host an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and join the World Trade Organization, the environment for free expression has deteriorated, and a growing number of bloggers have faced arrest, harassment, and imprisonment. In 2009, the New York–based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed Vietnam among the 10 most repressive countries for bloggers.2 In late 2009 and throughout 2010, a series of cyberattacks targeting a wide range of websites that were critical of the government highlighted an additional threat to internet freedom both within and beyond Vietnam’s borders. The environment Business in Asia, “Taking-off Strategy,” http://www.business-in-asia.com/vietnam/vietnam_ict.html, accessed August 25, 2010.
Committee to Protect Journalists, “10 Worst Countries to Be a Blogger,” April 30, 2009, http://www.cpj.org/reports/2009/04/10-worst-countries-to-be-a-blogger.php.
VIETNAM FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net tightened further towards year’s end, as the authorities prepared for a Communist Party Congress in January 2011.
OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Thanks to decreasing costs and the improvement of electricity and telecommunications networks, Vietnam’s internet penetration rate has grown dramatically over the past decade, from 0.3 percent in 2000 to nearly 30 percent (25 million users) in 2010.3 ADSL broadband access is also widely available and estimated to have five million users as of 2010. The internet’s growth is largely driven by the demands of Vietnam’s relatively young population;
some 60 percent of the country’s total population is under 35. Internet access points are easily found in urban areas throughout the country. In most towns, citizens can access the internet in their homes and workplaces. Cybercafes are affordable for most urban dwellers,and WiFi connections are available free of charge in many semi-public spaces such as airports, cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Given Vietnam’s 92 percent literacy rate, illiteracy does not pose a barrier to access.5 The availability of the internet in rural areas remains limited, although programs backed by the government and international donors have increased access in recent years. Ethnic minorities and the poor live primarily in remote areas and are especially at a disadvantage.
Vietnam was home to 88.5 million mobile-phone users in 2009, according to the ITU.6 The country’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) placed the number at 110 million in early 2010. Although the figures exceed the total population, it is estimated that some 30 million low-income Vietnamese lack mobile phones, while others own two mobile devices or multiple SIM cards.7 A third-generation technology (3G) network enabling internet access via mobile phones has been operating since the end of 2009, and the number of users is slowly expanding. As of mid-2010, there were at least million 3G users. Vietnam Internet Network Information Center, “Report on Internet Statistics of Vietnam,” September 2010, http://www.thongkeinternet.vn/jsp/thegioi/dna_tab.jsp. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows the penetration rate at approximately 27 percent (23 million users) as of 2009. For more information see “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx.
“Vietnam: 20% Do Not Trust Internet Information,” P.A News, April 15, 2010, http://news.pavietnam.vn/archives/1547 (in Vietnamese).
UNICEF, “At a Glance: Vietnam,” http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/vietnam_statistics.html, accessed August 25, 2010.
International Telecommunication Union, “ICT Statistics 2009—Mobile Cellular Subscriptions,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed August 25, 2010.
“Mobile Subscribers Touch 110 Million in 2009,” Viet Nam Business News, March 7, 2010, http://vietnambusiness.asia/mobile-subscribers-touch-110-million-in-2009/.
Ha Phuong, “Mobile Operators Magnify Numbers of 3G Subscribers,” Look at Vietnam, June 12, 2010, http://www.lookatvietnam.com/2010/06/mobile-operators-magnify-numbers-of-3g-subscribers.html.
VIETNAM FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net The video-sharing website YouTube, the microblogging application Twitter, and international blog-hosting services are freely available and growing in popularity. However, in September 2009 an order in which the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) instructed internet-service providers (ISPs) to block Facebook, which had roughly a million users in Vietnam at the time,9 began circulating online.10 By November, users were reporting difficulty accessing the website. It remained sporadically inaccessible throughout 2010, but the government refused to officially acknowledge trying to block.11 While no laws prohibit the use of circumvention tools, a 2008 decree makes it illegal to access blocked websites.Nevertheless, information on circumventing the block on Facebook circulated fairly widely, including via videos and blog posts.13 As such, by the end of 2010, the number of Facebook users in Vietnam had increased to nearly 2 million despite the block,14 though some users complained that previous, relatively simple methods of circumvention were becoming less effective. Zing Me, a domestic social networking site, had five million users by early 2011.In May 2010, the Ministry of Information and Culture (MIC) also launched a governmentbacked social network called Go VN, where users must register with their real name and government-issued identity number when creating an account; the initial response to the new initiative was limited.The three biggest ISPs are the state-owned Vietnam Post and Telecommunications (VNPT), which holds 74 percent of the market, the military-owned Viettel (11 percent), and the privately owned FPT (10 percent). VNPT and Viettel also own the three largest mobile-phone service providers in the country (MobiFone, VinaPhone, and Viettel), which reportedly serve 100 million of Vietnam’s 110 million users. Four privately owned companies share the remainder.17 While there is no legally imposed monopoly for access providers, informal practices create hurdles for new companies seeking to enter the market, An Khanh, “Online Business to Attract Young,” Radio Free Asia, July 21, 2010, http://www.rfamobile.org/vietnamese/in_depth/vietnamese-youth-is-attractted-to-do-business-on-facebook-KAn07212010160732.html (in Vietnamese).
Viet Tan, “Decree to Block Facebook in Vietnam,” September 1, 2010, http://www.viettan.org/spip.phparticle9390;
“Vietnam Is No Longer Friends with Facebook,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, December 21, 2009, available at http://www.viettan.org/spip.phparticle9335.
“Vietnam to Block Facebook,” CNN iReport, November 10, 2009, http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-354181.