Four Vietnamese Fined for Spreading “Fake News” on Wuhan Coronavirus Epidemic


Defend the Defenders, January 31, 2020


Authorities in many Vietnamese localities have imposed financial penalties on four local residents who have reportedly posted “fake information” about the novel Coronavirus infection on social media.

According to the state-controlled media, Facebookers Ha Thi Le Nhan from the central city of Hue, Tran Van Tung from the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tran Thi Thu Thuy from the northernmost province of Lang Son and Vu Thi Thanh from the northern city of Haiphong were summoned to by the local police for interrogation about their posts on Coronavirus infection in their areas.

Newspapers also reported that the four Facebookers admitted that their posts were untrue. Police in their localities have proposed administrative fines of between 10 million ($430) and VND15 million.

Particularly, Mr. Tung was fined with VND15 million, Ms. Nhan and Ms. Thuy were punished with VND12.5 million while Ms. Thanh has to pay VND10 million.

They were requested to delete their posts and will face heavier penalties, including arrest and charge with criminal offenses if they repeat.

Nhan was said to have posted on her Facebook account that “Hue has detected one nCoV infection case. The patient, a Chinese national from Wuhan, is now quarantined at Hue Central Hospital.” She reportedly also posted the same information on several Facebook groups.

In the same move, Tung posted on Facebook on January 27 “Le Loi Hospital in Vung Tau Town [capital of Ba Ria-Vung Tau] is putting two Chinese in quarantine as they are suspected to have been infected with the new coronavirus.”

As for Thanh, she wrote on her own Facebook account on Sunday that “One suspected Wuhan pneumonia infection case has been found in Haiphong and the patient is now quarantined at Viet Tiep Hospital.”

All of them were said to keep their posts shortly and deleted them later but the local police said their information has already caused confusion among many people.

Last week, authorities in the central province of Khanh Hoa also summoned a number of local Facebookers for interrogation regarding their posts on the Coronavirus infection in Nha Trang city, one of the tourist sites attracting tens of thousands of Chinese citizens and tourists from other countries. After being interrogated, the Facebookers were demanded to delete their posts.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has confirmed five cases of nCoV infection as of January 31. They are two Chinese citizens and three Vietnamese residents coming back from Wuhan. One of the Chinese had recovered.

The nation had 97 suspected cases with symptoms like fever and cough and is quarantining 32 pending test results.

Many experts predicted that Vietnam may be the nation suffered most from the Coronavirus epidemic after China where the disease broke and took lives of 231 people and infected more than 7,000.

Vietnam’s communist government is considering to declare a national emergency in a bid to deal with the outbreak. As many as 500,000 Chinese citizens, thousands of them from Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, were reportedly to enter Vietnam during the Lunar New Year festival which lasted one week until January 29.

Instead of providing transparent information about Coronavirus infection in localities, Vietnam’s central government and local authorities are striving to hide all information regarding the disease and suppress bloggers and Facebookers.

Vietnam has around 50 million Internet users, however, the country is listed at the bottom of Internet freedom, according to Freedom House’s 2019 report. Last year, at least 21 Facebookers were sentenced to between one year and 11 years in prison for their online posts.