Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party continued to tighten its authoritarian grip on Internet usage this week by passing a law that will hand out hefty fines to netizens posting material deemed critical of the state.
According to a report published by Reuters, anyone seen as criticizing the government on online social media platforms or espousing “reactionary ideology” can be hit with a fine equal to about $5,000. The average monthly income in the country is $185.
While prosecuting and imprisoning bloggers is nothing new in Vietnam, the decree appears to target content that is deemed incendiary by officials but does not constitute a criminal offense.
The new, and largely vague, law is the latest initiative in a widening crackdown by the country’s party officials aimed at silencing online dissent in an increasingly plugged-in Vietnam. According to online news site Tech in Asia, Vietnam has more than 20 million Facebook users, which accounts for 71.4 percent penetration of the country’s total internet population.
Earlier this year, Vietnam banned social-media users and bloggers from reposting official news stories online.
Vietnam is currently listed 172nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Despite this, the nation recently won a seat on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.