The suspension of Tuoi Tre Online for three months was announced by the ministry of information and communication on 16 July. The website is the online version of the Tuoi Tre, the country’s leading reformist newspaper, which was founded in the 1970s by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union.
The ministry said the website had attributed “untrue” comments to President Tran Dai Quang in a 19 June article about a possible Demonstration Law, and had failed to remove a “nationally divisive” comment that a reader posted on an article about a proposed expressway.
As well as the suspension, the ministry announced that Tuoi Tre Online has been fined 220 million dong (9,500 dollars), and has been asked to correct the articles and make a public apology.
“After hounding independent media and bloggers, the Vietnamese Communist Party is taking its censorship even further by targeting mainstream media,” RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said. “We firmly condemn this latest press freedom violation, especially as Vietnam’s traditional media are already subject to almost total government control and self-censorship.”
Major street protests have been under way in Vietnam since early June. One of the sources of anger is a new cybersecurity law that has been passed by parliament. It steps up surveillance of social networks and could have dire consequences for the freedom to inform.
Vietnam continues to languish near the bottom of RSF's World Press Freedom Index, and is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Index.