Vietnam passes cybersecurity law despite privacy concerns

An estimated 70 percent of Vietnam’s 93 million people are online and some 53 million people have Facebook accounts. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Vietnam passes cybersecurity law despite privacy concerns

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnamese legislators on Tuesday passed a contentious cybersecurity law, which critics say will hurt the economy and further restrict freedom of expression.
The law requires service providers such as Google and Facebook to store user data in Vietnam, open offices in the country and remove offending contents within 24 hours at the request of the Ministry of Information and Communications and the specialized cybersecurity task-force under the Ministry of Public Security.
Addressing the Communist Party-dominated assembly before the vote, chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security Vo Trong Viet said the law is “extremely necessary to defend the interests of the people and national security.”
Viet said the law doesn’t contradict Vietnam’s commitments to multinational trade treaties such as the World Trade Organization and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but he said there are exceptions on national security grounds.
He said requiring foreign companies to set up data centers in Vietnam may increase their operational costs, but it was necessary for the country’s cybersecurity and will facilitate the companies’ operations and user activities.
“When there are acts of violation of cybersecurity, the coordination in handling the violations will be more effective and more viable,” Viet said, without elaborating.
The United States and Canada have called on Vietnam to delay the passage of legislation.
The US Embassy said last week it found the draft containing “serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments.”
Amnesty International said the decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression.
“In the country’s deeply repressive climate, the online space was a relative refuge where people could go to share ideas and opinions with less fear of censure by the authorities,” Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s director of global operations, said in a statement Tuesday.
She said the law grants the government sweeping powers to monitor online activity, which means “there is now no safe place left in Vietnam for people to speak freely.”
“This law can only work if tech companies cooperate with government demands to hand over private data. These companies must not be party to human rights abuses, and we urge them to use the considerable power they have at their disposal to challenge Viet Nam’s government on this regressive legislation,” she said.
The Vietnam Digital Communications Association said the law may reduce the gross domestic product by 1.7 percent and wipe out foreign investment by 3.1 percent.
An estimated 70 percent of Vietnam’s 93 million people are online and some 53 million people have Facebook accounts.
Despite sweeping economic reforms since the mid-1980s that made Vietnam one of fastest growing economies in the region, authorities maintains tight control over almost all aspects of life including the media and religion and tolerate no challenge to the one-party rule.


Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

Updated 47 min 41 sec ago
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Saudi Royal Court adviser confirms tough stance on piracy amid row over Qatar’s World Cup broadcasts

  • In an interview with CNN, Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
  • The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.

DUBAI: An adviser to Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court has underlined the Kingdom’s tough stance on piracy, following allegations that the country had supported a channel broadcasting World Cup games illegally.
The pirate channel, called “Beout Q,” has broadcast games for which the rights are held by Qatar’s BeIN Sports network, which is itself embroiled in a row over its coverage of the football tournament.
In an interview with CNN Arabic, Saudi Royal Court adviser Saud Al-Qahtani commented on the allegations that Saudi Arabia has supported Beout Q, dismissing claims that it is the Kingdom’s responsibility to remove it from the Arabsat satellite.
He told CNN: “First of all, who said that the ‘pirated’ broadcast is from Arabsat? And do we even how the piracy was done? From my side, I have not read (anything) but accusations about the matter. Anyway, this is question that should be asked to Arabsat and not to me.”
He pointed out that Arabsat is affiliated with all members of the Arab League, and so questions over the Beout Q channel should not be addressed to Saudi Arabia alone.
The Royal Court adviser stressed the seriousness with which Saudi Arabia views the issue of piracy.
“The Kingdom respects the protection of intellectual rights and is committed to the international agreements in the context. It has also been known about the Kingdom how unforgiving it is about piracy,” he said.
“The piracy problem is an international one. There are many other states that took similar actions and confiscated piracy devices, like Kuwait and Oman. We cannot forget that there is a similar problem in several Asian and European countries as well. Above of all that, some videos show that Beout Q is diffused in Doha, even in public places.”
Regarding the Kingdom’s intention to launch a network of channels to compete with the Qatar-owned stations, Al-Qahtani said: “In Saudi Arabia, we do not take decisions based on reactions to what others do. Currently, what matters to us is for the broadcast rights of international sports competitions to be given fairly, ensuring that no state exploits the broadcast of games to pass political agendas on the account of Olympic protocols, as Qatar is currently doing.”
Al-Qahtani confirmed that Saudi Arabia is taking legal measures against the Qatar-owned BeIN Sports network for mixing sport with politics in its coverage of the ongoing football tournament.
Numerous comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) to complain to FIFA earlier this week, saying the Qatar-owned broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
“The Qatari channel’s comments are a massive abuse against my country and the Saudi people,” Al-Qahtani told CNN Arabic.
“The Qatari monopoly has become a disaster to football fans. We are demanding an intervention to break the monopoly of BeIN Sports to avoid further aggravation.”
One BeIN commentator accused Riyadh of “selling the Palestinian cause,” while others called for an end of the diplomatic boycott of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Experts in the field of sports media earlier confirmed to Arab News that BeIN’s World Cup commentary was a breach of the rules and that Saudi Arabia will have a “case” in the complaint filed to FIFA.
“The ball is in the court of FIFA,” Al-Qahtani told CNN.
“We also demand the activation of Olympics protocols forbidding (BeIN) to use sports to pass its political agenda, as this has provoked the great anger of Saudi citizens and their Arab brothers who did not want the political differences to break into the world of sports.”
Many famous Arab sports players, media presenters, intellectuals and lawyers have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate.
More than 115,000 people have signed the petition — available at www.sports4everyone.org — in the past few days.
The website presents several examples of BeIN’s politicization of sports during the 2018 World Cup, with many during the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Comments made during that game have been referred to international law firms to take legal action against those involved.
The SAFF demanded FIFA take vigorous action against the Qatari government, which owns the beIN Sports channels.
BeIN holds the rights to broadcast the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa, but its channels are not available in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qahtani said that his tweets criticizing Doha’s policies are directed at the Qatari rulers, and not the Qatari people, whom he considers as “victims” of the regime.
In the interview with CNN, Al-Qahtani noted that the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for handling the Qatari issue, and that his statements are an expression of his own personal view.