Media Law Roundup: December 6th

Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a survey of  the week’s developing media news.

Vietnam Announces Fines for Social Media “Propaganda” Against the State
Fines of 100 million dongs ($4,740 USD) will now be given to anyone in Vietnam criticizing the government on social media. According to a new vaguely worded law, comments will trigger fines if they spread “reactionary ideology” or are identified as “propaganda against the state.” The law does not delineate differences between comments amounting to an “administrative violation,” resulting in a fine, and comments classified as criminal offences that are punishable with prison. Vietnam has come under fire from human rights groups and foreign governments over its harsh cyber laws and treatment of bloggers criticizing the government. Over the past four years the number of arrests and convictions of bloggers has soared.

Ukraine Government not Fulfilling Freedom of Expression Obligations
According to a new assessment published by Freedom House, the Ukrainian government is not fulfilling its promises to protect freedom of expression and curb corruption and poor ethical standards, issues that continue to plague Ukrainian media.  This year Ukraine held the OSCE Chairmanship in Office (CIO). In November 2012 the country outlined that freedom of speech, along with resolving frozen conflicts and combatting human trafficking, would be its priorities during its CIO. Freedom House found factors limiting the country’s progress include: delays in reforms and poor implementation of current laws; inadequate journalist protection; poor journalist ethical standards; government control over the media; and government-business corruption in the media. Recommendations to improve Ukraine’s freedom of expression obligations include media ownership transparency reforms, recognition of journalists working outside of traditional media outlets, and improved protection of journalists and their rights.

Dutch Watchdog Says Google Breaking Dutch Privacy Law
After a seven month investigation, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) stated that Google’s practice of combining personal data from its various online services violates Dutch data protection law. Google, responding to the DPA’s findings, said that it provides users with sufficient information about the way it processed their personal data, stating “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services.” The DPA has asked Google to attend a meeting to discuss its concerns and to determine whether it should take action against the search engine giant. In a statement, the DPA said that “Google does not properly inform users which personal data the company collects and combines, and for what purposes.” Google’s March 2012 decision to unilaterally impose new terms of service on users of all its cloud services (including YouTube, Gmail, and Google’s search engine) triggered privacy investigations in six European countries.

Kenya Passes Draconian Media Bill
Despite an opposition walk-out and international concerns about press freedom, on December 5th Kenyan lawmakers adopted amendments to a controversial media bill.  United Nations expert Frank La Rue stated that if implemented the bill, “could lead to restrictive interpretations that would unduly limit the rights to freedom of association, and opinion and expression.” The bill was originally passed in late October but sent back to parliament with presidential changes. It calls for huge fines of up to 20 million Kenyan shillings ($234,000 USD), and authorizes a special quasi-government body to police journalists and media outlets.

Featured Photo Credit: AHS under GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

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