Three fined for insulting provincial chair on Facebook captures public attention
The case that VietNamNet Bridge reported last week about three people fined for insulting the chairman of An Giang Province – Mr. Vuong Binh Thanh - on Facebook triggered controversies in the media and public.
Trifles - heavy fine
An Giang Chairman Vuong Binh Thanh.
In October, Ms. Le Thi Thuy Trang, a literature teacher at Long Xuyen High School in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, shared a news article about a central government’s proposal to have Thanh disciplined. She commented that he "looks arrogant”.
Huynh Nguyen Huy Phuc, an employee at the state-owned An Giang Electricity Company, commented on Trang’s post.
His wife, Phan Thi Kim Nga, deputy spokeswoman of An Giang Department of Industry and Trade, also used his Facebook account to “like” and comment on the same post.
The information department and police later launched an investigation into the case. Trang, Phuc and Nga have all been reprimanded by their organizations. Trang and Phuc were also fined VND5 million (nearly $250) each.
The case immediately became a hot issue in the public because this was the first time individuals, particularly public servants, were fined for their comments on Facebook.
According to many experts, officials and the public opinion, the sanctions on Trang, Phuc and Nga are too heavy. Some lawyers said that An Giang authorities did not correctly apply the correct procedures in this case. The decision on imposing fines on Trang and Phuc quoted the law that does not exist in Vietnam’s legal system, which is called “Law on Dealing with Administrative Violation 1/7/2013”.
Lawyer Nguyen Truong Thanh from the Can Tho Bar Associationsaid that administrative decisions quoting the wrong legal documents are invalid.
Moreover, the report of the case did not note the time when the incident occurred and the report was made without a witness, which are contrary to law.
In latest news, An Giang authorities have revoked punishments on the three people after being strongly criticized by the public.
Chau Doc City in An Giang Province has made a quick decision telling the city’s education and training office to take back a ban on education officials’ private comments on social media. The ban has sparked public debate as it runs counter to the existing regulations and particularly the Constitution, reported the Saigon Times Daily.
Document 1192 signed earlier this month by the education office’s chief Nguyen Thi Hong Loan says when joining social networks, teachers and students at the schools under its management are forbidden from commenting on, liking, sharing and publishing posts relating to policies, politics, religions and information or acts of sabotage against the State or defamation.
The document came out after the provincial Department of Information and Communications issued a dispatch urging relevant agencies to ask their staff and locals to abide by regulations on the use and supply of information on social media. The dispatch aims to prevent local government employees from spending office hours on Facebook and taking advantage of social media to defame individuals and organizations as well as distort policies of the Mekong Delta province.
Instead of encouraging teachers and students to observe the dispatch, the education office bans commenting on issues of public interest, a right which is allowed by the 2013 Constitution.
The document violates Article 25 of the Constitution, which clarifies Vietnamese people have freedom of speech and access to information in line with relevant regulations. Therefore, Chau Doc City has decided to invalidate it as the existing rules do not ban people from constructively commenting on issues in which they are interested.
Tran Quoc Tuan, vice chairman of Chau Doc City, was cited by Tuoi Tre as confirming that the document will be withdrawn.
Government agencies and localities need to listen to constructive opinions to make improvements and meet people’s expectations, and at the same time impose sanctions on those who use the Internet to defame individuals and organizations.
Compiled by Linh Nhat, VNN