Vietnam: authorities must act to safeguard rights online and end harassment of those expressing themselves – ICJ new report

In a new report released today, the ICJ called on the Vietnamese authorities to take swift measures to reform its laws and practices around the use of the internet and to stem the pattern of accelerating human rights abuse of individuals online.

The paper, Dictating the Internet: Curtailing Free Expression and Information Online in Vietnam, details the deteriorating human rights environment online in Vietnam. The paper tracks, in particular, how State authorities have increasingly abused laws and the administration of justice to violate the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and information online.

The paper follows on from the ICJ’s 2019 regional report entitled Dictating the Internet: Curtailing Free Expression, Opinion and Information Online in Southeast Asia assessing non-human rights compliant legal frameworks and case studies across Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

The paper outlines emerging developments and trends in 2020 and tracks interferences not only with freedom of expression, opinion and information online, but also the rights to privacy, liberty, fair trial, freedom of association and assembly, life and health.

Multiple case studies highlight how affected individuals have been subject to harassment, investigation, criminal charges, prosecution, and imprisonment for exercising their rights to free expression and information on online platforms. The Dong Tam dispute and trial – which reflected the abuse of rights online and offline of individuals seeking to bring to light human rights violations relating to the land rights dispute – is also highlighted as an emblematic case study.

The paper further explains how, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, freedom of expression and information online has been arbitrarily curtailed by the State in the misguided name of protecting public health.

Along with applying ill-conceived laws to harass individuals, Vietnamese authorities have continued to employ other tactics to ensure State control of expression and content online, including through cybersurveillance and policing of online platforms, and applying pressure on technological companies to comply with demands for censorship by silencing human rights defenders on their platforms.

The paper provides specific recommendations to the Vietnamese Government to safeguard in law and practice the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and information online as well as offline, in line with the State’s international human rights obligations.

The full report is available in English here. (PDF)


Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, email:

See also

ICJ, ‘Southeast Asia: ICJ launches report on increasing restrictions on online speech’, 11 December 2019


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