'Stalinist' Vietnamese cybersecurity law takes effect, worrying rights groups and online campaigners

A man reads online news on his laptop at a coffee shop in downtown Hanoi (file photo).

(CNN)Vietnam has enacted a catch-all cybersecurity law that could easily be used to ensnare citizen journalists and bloggers, free speech advocates and rights groups warn.

The law, which criminalizes criticism of the government and obliges internet companies to store data locally and hand over user data to the government without the need for a warrant, came into effect on January 1, according to state media.
In an article in the lead-up to the law being enacted, government-run media described the seven-chapter law as one that "(protects) national security and ensures social order and safety on cyberspace, and responsibilities of agencies, organizations and individuals."
In his New Year's Day speech, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said: "Mass communication efforts must be stepped up to create 'social consensus.'
    "Those abusing the freedom of information and free speech, causing harm to the interests of the State and citizens would receive appropriate punishments."

    'Totalitarian model'

    The law has been met with staunch opposition from human rights organizations and online advocacy groups since it passed the National Assembly last summer.
    "It really sounds like a very totalitarian model of control of information," Daniel Bastard, head of Reporters Without Borders' Asia-Pacific desk, told CNN.