The new law, known as the Ordinance on Sanctions of Administrative Violations for obstructing procedural activities, states that journalists who are found to have recorded, via audio or video, a trial without the permission of the judge presiding over the case will face a fine of up to 15 million Vietnamese dong (approx. USD 640).
According to the Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Nguyen Tri Tue, the law is designed to protect the privacy of those involved in court proceedings and to limit a growing number of court violations, which serve as ‘disruptions’ to both judges and juries, undermining the overall quality of trials.
Journalists and legal experts have expressed concern over the legislation, alleging that it conflicts with Vietnam’s existing laws and will impede journalists’ capacity to provide evidence of claims made in articles and reports.
According to reports, Luu Binh Nhuong, a member of the National Assembly of Vietnam, reiterated these concerns and emphasised that such a restriction should only be imposed in cases involving sensitive government or military material, or sexual assault cases.
In Vietnam, independent journalism is closely monitored and censored by the state, with a number of journalists frequently arrested for critical reporting on the nation’s government. In April this year, journalist Nguyen Hoai Nam was sentenced to three years and six months in prison on allegations of state criticism. The same week, journalist Phan Bui Bao Thy was sentenced to mandatory ‘re-education’ classes for allegedly defaming state leaders.
In April, the Vietnamese government also announced plans to introduce new rules requiring social media platforms to remove illegal content within 24 hours in an effort to crack down on ‘anti-state’ activity.
The IFJ said: “Journalists play a vital role in communicating the details of court cases within the public interest and must be able to work freely and independently. The IFJ condemns any restrictions imposed on working journalists and urges the Vietnamese government to withdraw the new legislation.”