Vietnam: Discussion on personal image rights during COVID-19

Recently, the situation of the Covid-19 epidemic has been complicated, all sectors and levels have put all their efforts to prevent the disease. However, in the implementation process, there are still some issues that make many people concerned about whether it is in accordance with the law or not. For example, the act of posting personal information, photos, clips of the patient, person who violates the Directive 16 on social media or the mass media.

Protecting personal images and privacy of patients infected with Covid-19

Recently, the Department of Health of Ho Chi Minh City issued an urgent Official Dispatch No. 4690 to field hospitals, treatment hospitals, medical isolation areas in Ho Chi Minh City and agencies and units under the Department of Health, noting that people and medical staffs strictly comply with the provisions of the law on protection of personal images, the right of patient privacy and regulations on providing information and posting information on social networks.

In the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, the privacy of Covid-19 patients has not been cared for, even violated, seriously affecting their lives. 

According to Article 8 of the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment 2009 of Vietnam: Patients have the right to have their health status and private information recorded in their medical records kept confidential. Thus, arbitrarily posting and spreading information about people infected with Covid-19 is illegal, whether unintentionally or intentionally.

The reality of violations of respecting images and personal secrets is increasing due to  the fact that in these days, anyone who has a smartphone with full functions of filming, taking pictures, and recording audio images can post on the Internet with just one click. Some newspapers even unintentionally abet this violation with sensational headlines that the patient's family had to speak up.

Pursuant to Article 38 of the Civil Code 2015 of Vietnam, the collection, preservation, use and publication of information about the private life of an individual must have the consent of that person; the collection, preservation, use and publication of information about the secrets of family must have the consent of all family’s members, unless otherwise prescribed by law. In case it is necessary to use personal image information for the purpose of education, warning and prevention of acts harmful to society, it is only carried out in accordance with the law of Vietnam.

Posting pictures and clips of people violating Directive 16 on social networks is illegal

In the prevention of the epidemic, many pictures and clips recorded by law enforcement officers were distributed on social networks, affecting the lives of insiders, causing them to receive a lot of harsh criticism from the public. If this person is a sensitive, vulnerable person, it is likely that they will be traumatized, have negative thoughts and actions. The collection, storage, use and disclosure of personal information must be consented to by that person.

Pursuant to Clause 1 Article 20 of the Constitution 2013 of Vietnam, everyone has the right to inviolability of his or her body and to the protection by law of his or her health, honor and dignity;

Thus, individuals or organizations that arbitrarily post the above-mentioned images and clips on social networks are violating the law.

Sanctions for those who commit violations

Pursuant to Clause 3 Article 34 of the Civil Code 2015 of Vietnam, if a piece of information adversely affecting the honor, dignity and prestige of a person is posted on a means of mass media, that piece of information shall be removed or rectified by that kind of means.

Moreover, pursuant to Article 592 of the Civil Code 2015 of Vietnam, if the violation causes damage to honor, dignity or reputation, a person causing harm to the honor, dignity or reputation of another person must pay compensation for damage according to the agreement of parties.

If the parties are not able to agree, the maximum sum shall not exceed ten-month base salary prescribed by the State.

If the damage caused by law enforcers, the State must compensate as prescribed in the Law on compensation liability of the State of Vietnam. Violators must refund after the State compensates the infringed person's legitimate rights and interests with respect to images, information and secrets of private life.

Administrative liability, pursuant to Article 99 of the Decree No. 15/2020/NĐ-CP:

- Providing or sharing paths/links to other websites with contents in violation of laws: a fine ranging from VND 10,000,000 to VND 20,000,000;

- Providing false information with the aims of distorting, slandering or damaging the prestige, honor and dignity of other organizations or individuals: a fine ranging from VND 20,000,000 to VND 30,000,000.

Moreover, pursuant to Article 101 of the Decree No. 15/2020/NĐ-CP, the commission of providing/sharing fake or false information with the aims of distorting, slandering or damaging the prestige, honor and dignity of other organizations, authorities or individuals shall face a fine ranging from VND 10,000,000 to VND 20,000,000.

(Note: The above amount is applied for individuals, for organizations, the amount of fine is double).

Criminal liability, if the violation causes serious consequences, the person who commits will be criminally handled according to Article 155 of the current Criminal Code of Vietnam. According to this provision, any person who seriously insults another person shall face a penalty of up to 03 years' community sentence or a penalty of 03 - 02 years' imprisonment depending on the seriousness of the commitment.

Bao Ngoc



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