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Vietnamese Facebook user fined for “fake news” as criticism of government handling of pandemic mounts – Radio Free Asia

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Police in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City fined a local Facebook user for saying the local government neglected city dwellers and starved them amid lockdowns designed to control the spread of COVID-19 let, said sources.

Nguyen Thuy Duong was fined 5 million aid packages on Thursday.

State media said the fine was imposed by Ho Chi Minh City Police and the city’s Ministry of Information and Communication for violating Government Decree 15, which regulates the use of postal services, telecommunications and other information technologies.

On Thursday, Duong challenged her fine and said in an online statement that authorities told her over the phone that they had brought four witnesses who said people in the area were not starved.

“I told them that I had 40 witnesses who could prove that people were being forced to beg for food. And to show my goodwill and not to argue with them, I suggested that they speak to the people in the restricted area in person, ”she said.

At the same time, people in the affected area were still calling her to report their problems, she said.

“I turned on the speaker on my phone and they agreed to go to the checkpoint to testify, but the police told me to turn off my phone and refused to say more,” Duong said. “The minutes of our meeting show that I denied doing anything wrong.”

The fourth wave of the Vietnamese COVID-19 pandemic, which started on Jan.

Photos and videos posted on Facebook and TikTok highlight widespread anger over food shortages, unemployment and lack of government support, and authorities have punished people for allegedly posting “false information” on social media about the spread of the pandemic.

However, when publishing reports on penalties for disseminating false information, state media would sometimes fail to point out which regulations were violated, sources said.

Protect each other, blame others

Ordinary people are often disadvantaged, Ngoc Binh – a resident of Binh Tan District in Ho Chi Minh City – told RFA, adding that in any dispute between government officials and ordinary citizens, citizens are punished first.

“Government officials often protect one another and blame others,” she said.

Authorities also sometimes issue documents and then call them back without explanation, lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA.

“Obviously there is an inequality between the government sector and the private sector,” he said. “People are immediately sanctioned and fined for allegedly breaking the rules. However, if the public sector fails, the authorities can reverse their decisions and no sanctions are announced. “

Inspection of travel permits and other documents at checkpoints in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and other locations has simultaneously turned those places into crowded areas and violated regulations that require social distancing, sources say.

COVID-19 could easily spread among the thousands of people waiting for their permits to be issued, said Vietnam-based journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, adding, “In communist countries in general, and in Vietnam in particular, governments never admit that they are wrong. even if their guidelines have many errors and deficiencies. “

If their policies are flawed, authorities simply replace them with new ones and don’t admit their mistakes, he said. “When people break these guidelines, they are treated harshly. But for the authorities and cadres, if they make mistakes, they just have to learn the lessons. “

“It has always been like that,” he said.

By 5:48 p.m. Friday, Vietnam had recorded 501,649 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, according to data from the CDC, WHO and other sources. The total number of deaths now stands at 12,446.

Reported by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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