In Vietnam, It's All the News the State Says Is Fit to Print

By Minh T. Vo, | The Christian Science Monitor, April 20, 1998 | Go to article overview

In Vietnam, It's All the News the State Says Is Fit to Print


Minh T. Vo,, The Christian Science Monitor


While drinking the bitter tea commonly served in Hanoi, the press official winces when the newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) is mentioned.

According to several sources a high-ranking member of Vietnam's internal security department, he has reasons to dislike the periodical.

Five years ago, it published stories that strayed outside of the ruling Communist Party's guidelines. But with a new editor at the helm, Tuoi Tre's critical tone has fallen an octave. The paper has been fulfilling its mandate of promoting state ideology. Critics of Vietnam's human rights record periodically highlight restrictions on the media, all of which are state-owned, as a sign of political repression. These days, they are rallying again after President Clinton last month decided to waive a law that served as a bottleneck to trade between the US and Vietnam. Human rights advocates argue that the Jackson-Vanick amendment - which imposes trade restrictions on communist governments - provides important political leverage. And they are expected to challenge the president's position this June in Congress. Vietnamese journalists are also listing their grievances - privately. They have been instructed to expose corruption as part of a campaign against "social evils" associated with the new market economy. Yet this mandate seems to apply only to low-ranking officials, many reporters complain. "We get awards for exposing improper behavior, as long as we don't expose too much," says one reporter, who asked that his name not be used. Reports of scandals published by the press are usually vetted by and handed down from the government, another reporter says. Last October, Nguyen Hoang Linh, editor of Doanh Nghiep, was arrested after his newspaper detailed an alleged Customs Department scam involving high-ranking officials. …

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