Lê Thanh Liêm, deputy head of the legal department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, talks to Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper on the imminent increase to fines for violations in advertising and cultural activities provided for in the Decree 38.
Would the Government's Decree 38 on administrative fines in advertising and cultural activities help with State management when the trend right now is to move away from stringent approval procedures before giving licences (for shows/performances for example) to stricter inspections afterwards to ensure compliance?
Decree 38 was born to strengthen the enforcement of the law in the fields of culture and advertising, as the laws regulating contents have changed a lot, for example, with the recent Library Law, Decree 110 on the management of festivals, Decree 54 on the management of karaoke and discotheque business activities, and Decree 144 on the performing arts.
With an easier approval process, fines must be increased significantly to ensure good compliance.
The decree has for the most part increased fines by 20-30 per cent, even 100 per cent in some cases, for example, in penalties for acts of using violence or indecent content in offline games.
In the decree, there are still vague terms that could lead to a lack of uniform enforcement between agencies or local governments due to differences in understanding such as “offensive to beliefs or religion” or “not gender-appropriate”?
In theory, the legal system would always be a step behind the real-life situation given how rich and diverse life is. Lawmakers struggle to write more detailed laws, and the best way to enforce the law can only be decided on a case per case basis.
That said, the bills attempt to be as clear and detailed as possible.
Decree 38 doesn’t make up these violations of content on its own but base these regulations on already existing items. For example, content deemed offensive to one’s religion and beliefs is already a prohibited act in the Law on Belief and Religion.
Of course, the offending act must be considered as to whether it was just an individual act or an act that could create a ‘trend’ that might result in serious social implications.
But when the laws are not clear, could lead to abuse from law enforcement?
At the moment, the rights of people or organisations subject to fines are clearly defined by the law, the problem is that not all have fully exercised their rights.
They have the right to demand the law enforcement agency prove that they have committed a legal violation.
The law enforcement units must be careful and prudent in their reasoning, description, social context, and consequence of the offending act. A wrongful administrative penalty means law enforcement would have to compensate those who have been wronged.
It must also be acknowledged that in sanctioning administrative violations, law enforcement has a very important role especially in cases where the offensiveness of the acts is not clearly or easily determined.
Law enforcement must rely on mainstream view in society to determine what exactly is offensive to one’s religious beliefs or what is not gender-appropriate.
In case of doubt, they could consult relevant agencies or even hold some sort of public referendum. — VNS
Decree 39 has a number of highlights regarding penalties for cultural and advertising activities:
- Fine of VNĐ1-3 million (US$43-130) for acts of vandalism (writing or drawing, defacing or polluting historical and cultural sites or scenic sights)
- VNĐ25-30 million (about $1,100-1,300) fine along with 6-12 month suspension for cultural shows featuring acts that are deemed inappropriate with the traditional culture, age or gender norms.
- VNĐ 45-50 million fine in addition to 12-24 month suspension would be imposed against organisations of shows, contests or festivals featuring performances with content that distort the historical truths, the country’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; refuting the role and achievements of the revolution; offending one’s religion and beliefs; blaspheme leaders, national heroes, renowned figures
- Vietnamese who participate in international beauty contests without obtaining approval from the authorised State agencies would face fines up to VNĐ 20-25 million, and should they use the unapproved titles to promote themselves in Việt Nam, they would also face fines up to VNĐ 15-20 million.