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    Laos Bans Online Criticism of Government

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    The government of Laos has passed a decree prohibiting Internet users from criticizing the government, its policies or the ruling party, Reuters reports.

    MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) – The government of Laos has passed a decree prohibiting Internet users from criticizing the government, its policies or the ruling party, Reuters reports.

    Spreading “false” information that “distorts the truth to tarnish the dignity and undermine the rights of individuals, sectors, institutions and organisations” is illegal under the new law, signed on September 16, Laos’ state news agency KPL said.

    Other information, which cannot be posted online, includes sensitive data, “national secrets”, pornography, inappropriate photos, as well as anything that “[undermines] peace, independence, sovereignty, unity and prosperity of the country.”

    Internet service providers may face charges for supporting individuals or organizations allegedly smearing the government. Additionally, the law requires Internet users to use real names on social networks.

    Breaking the law will result in a warning or fine. Serious offenders will face civil and criminal charges.

    Similar laws have already been enacted in neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

    One in seven Lao nationals has a Facebook account, Xinhua reports adding that the number of Internet users in the country is rapidly growing. World Bank estimates that 12.5 percent of the population has access to Internet.

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