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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Vietnam threatens internet crackdown
Internet cafe in Vietnam
Surfing is increasingly popular among Vietnam's young
Vietnam's communist government is threatening a further internet crackdown, stopping surfers visiting sites it deems "subversive".

Phan An Sa, deputy chief inspector at the Ministry of Culture and Information, was quoted in the Lao Dong newspaper as saying he would draw up plans for blocking websites considered subversive and harmful to national security.

Government figures on why people log on
70% to chat
10% for games
10% for e-mail
10% surfing sites
He said that Vietnam Data Communications, the country's only internet gateway, should block all anti-government websites based on a list drawn up the Ministry of Police.

Owners of internet cafes will be subjected to tighter licensing and checks into their family, professional and financial background, he said.

The proposals will stoke fears among dissident and foreign groups that Vietnam's already tight hold over the internet is being extended.

Censorship fears

Paris-based Reporters Without Frontiers warned last week of a national crackdown.

"We fear that a policy of crushing freedom of expression on the internet is being put in place in Vietnam as savage as that already in place in China.

"Censorship, arrests, checks on web-users and blocking of foreign sites are now a reality of the internet and for Vietnamese web-users," the organisation said.

Earlier this month, one of Vietnam's most popular websites, ttvnonline.com, was suspended for carrying information that "distorted the truth".

The ministry's proposals follow an inspection tour of internet cafes around the country, which appeared to have been prompted by government concern at the internet's rapid spread.

Inspectors estimated that 4,000 internet cafes were operating in the country, and that most of their customers were aged between 14 and 24.

Mr Sa said 70% of internet users in Vietnam logged on to chat, 10% to play games, and 10% to send and receive e-mails.

Only the remaining 10% surfed websites, the ministry estimated.

The number of internet users in Vietnam is unclear, though some estimates put the figure at 600,000.

See also:

14 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
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17 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
14 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
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