Hanoi, April 15 (IANS) Vietnam on Wednesday tightened its legislation against the dissemination of false reports or news with the enactment of a new decree after such incidents multiplied on social networks in recent weeks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new law will fine violators between 10 million and 20 million dong (between $426 and $852 dollars) for those who share false, distorted or defamatory information on social networks in a country where the minimum wage is about 150 euros in most of its regions, Efe news reported.
The specific amount set for fines depends on the type and severity of the infraction and is the main novelty in the cybersecurity law which came into force in January 2019 and has led to fines and arrests of dozens of activists. Their infractions are considered "propaganda against the state."
According to the dissident organization Defend the Defenders, since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in January, security forces have summoned more than 300 people to interrogate them for content disseminated on Facebook and have imposed fines of up to 15 million dong ($639).
Among those punished are two well-known actresses and a singer, ordered to pay 10 million dong each ($426) for posting on January 31 on Facebook that flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan were arriving in Vietnam despite a ban from the authorities.
Although Vietnam has managed to largely contain the spread of COVID-19 - with just 265 cases reported so far and no deaths - social distancing measures imposed by the government earlier this month and a general economic slowdown have affected thousands of businesses and left millions of people without income.
The country has also been a leader in the donation of masks to Western nations. The government donated 550,000 face masks to five European countries on April 18: Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain, with an official delivery ceremony held at the headquarters of the foreign affairs ministry.
The masks, made with an antibacterial fabric that repels saliva drops, were then delivered to the respective embassies.