Vietnam’s legal system to guarantee people’s access to information (ATI) and the responsibility to provide information of public authorities has only been started since 1998 with Government’s Decree No. 29 on exercise of democracy in communes, wards and townships. Since then, a number of laws issued by the National Assembly also regulate publicity, such as the Budget Law (2002), Anti-Corruption Law (2005) and the State Audit Law (2005).
According to the World Bank-funded study “Press with Access to Information”, there are currently about 50 laws and regulations that deal with ATI, “but limit to defining public accountability and transparency and providing information on a particular area. There is no specific legal mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of right on access to infomation. The documents are too contradictory and do not meet the practical needs in Vietnam and other requirements of a legal institution in a society is constantly developing.”
The Law on ATI passed by the National Assembly on April 6, 2016 is an advance in ensuring ATI. The law provides for the principles of ensuring ATI, the right of ATI, the scope and responsibility of providing information, the information to be disclosed, the form and timing of disclosure, provide information on request, measures to ensure the right to access information of citizens, and responsibilities of state agencies. This law will make it easier for people to access information and publicity and transparency of public officials. For the first time, instead of looking at various laws and regulations on ATI, citizens, businesses and civil servants can find the basic rules in a law.
At the same time, a criminal sanction is imposed on crimes of infringement of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and ATI provided for in the Penal Code 2015 (amended, Supplement 2017) for the first time in Viet Nam, which states: “Any person who uses force, threatens to use force or other tricks to obstruct citizens exercise their right to freedom of speech, press freedom, ATI, the right to protest have been disciplined or administratively sanctioned for one of such acts but still commit the offense, shall be subject to non-custodial reform for up to two years or to a prison term of between three months and two years. ”
However, the Law on ATI 2016 also provides that information classified as state secrets is inaccessible to citizens (Article 6). Thus, the “open” level of the Law on ATI actually depends on the content of the State Secret Law being proposed.
At present, regulations on the construction of the list of state secrets that lie within the executive branch, namely the unity between the heads of central agencies and the Minister of Public Security, are creating obstacles. big with ATI of the people. Unless this regulation is amended in the State Secretariat Act, it is likely that it will be the main obstacle to the implementation of OGP’s three criteria, i.e. ATI, public budget transparency. asset declaration.
In summary, as the Law on ATI itself is not sufficient, Vietnam should have a law on protection of state secrets which is more detail and specific than the current ordinance to ensure that list of state secrets and secret seals are defined clearly and properly. The law on protection of state secrets need to “legislate the regulations on the protection of state secrets in the direction of: i) Distinguishing details of types of confidential, secret and top secret information; ii) Clearly defining the contents of the secret controlled by ministries and state agencies; iii) Imposing strict sanctions on acts of misappropriating the secret seals of state agencies; iv) Provision of unauthorized information must be in line with international standards and the constitution, and should not exceed the limits of ATI and must be decided by the National Assembly rather than by public administrations (to avoid arbitrary seals on documents or making difficult for state agencies to determine their responsibilities in determining which information should be disclosed publicly, when and how; v) Determining the timeframe for information disclosure in accordance with the Law on Archiving. “