Vietnam’s Police Summon 654 Facebookers, Imposing Fines on 146 Bloggers for Posting about Coronavirus

Three girls in Lao Cai interrogated for their online posts about Coronavirus (Internet)

Defend the Defenders, March 16, 2020

Vietnam’s state-controlled media has reported that 654 Facebookers have been summoned to the police stations for interrogation about their posts on the social network about the deadly Coronavirus outbreak, and 146 of them have been fined of between VND10 million ($430) and VND12.5 million.

Citing the information from the Ministry of Public Security, newspapers reported that there have been around 900,000 posts on social networks about the devasting disease coming from China’s Wuhan since its outbreak in late 2019.

The ministry said numerous articles and videoclips posted on Facebook and other social networks are untrusted or unverified which are harmful to the public. A number of famous figures have also disseminated “fake news,” the ministry said.

On February 12, the Department of Information and Communication in Ho Chi Minh City imposed an administrative fine of VND10 million on celebrities Dam Vinh Hung, Cat Phuong and Ngo Thanh Van for posting “untrue information,” local outlet said without giving details.

Newspapers have reported that in early March, Hanoi police detained a local resident named K.P.T. after he said on Facebook that the Covid-19-infected patient number 17 had participated in a number of public events few days before having disease symptoms while the police said she had been self-quarantined after landing in Noi Bai International Airport in a flight from London.

In mid-March, several Facebookers disseminated that Nguyen Quang Thuan, former chairman of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and incumbent vice chairman of the ruling communist party’s Central Theoretical Council, had visited his girlfriend-lover immediately after arriving in Hanoi from the same flight with the patient No. 17, three days before being hospitalized for the urgent treatment of Coronavirus. Police said the information is not corrected and fined these bloggers.

According to statistics of police, authorities in Hanoi have worked with 44 Facebookers about online posting with “incorrect information” while the number in the central province of Thanh Hoa was 20 and the northern province of Lao Cai- six.

All of them have been forced to admit that their posts were with “fake content” and delete their posts as well as pledge not to repeat.

There has been no case in which a Facebooker is criminally probed for their “incorrect posts” regarding the Wuhan virus spreading, according to the local media.

Along with taking measures to prevent Coronavirus from spreading, Vietnam’s authorities have been cracking down Facebookers and bloggers who try to deliver timely and valuable information about the deadly outbreak given the state-controlled media has been restricted to disseminate information to the republic. Tens of millions of Vietnamese have relied on the social network as the communist regime is implementing strict censorship.

Vietnam, bordered with China- the world epicenter of Coronavirus with tens of thousands of people infected and thousands of deaths, and has never closed its border gates with the northern country, has reported only 60 infected. In recent months, there have been a number of cases in which people suddenly died in different locations but the local authorities reported later that their deaths have not been related to the deadly virus. The regime tends to make the disease consequences lighter or even hide them in fear of affecting the country’s economic growth, the sole reason for the communists to keep their power.

It seems that Vietnam’s authorities have not learned the lesson from China in the case of medical doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his colleagues about the deadly potentials of the Wuhan virus but was summoned and disciplined by China’s police before dying from the disease in early February this year.