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Vietnam's press freedom shrinks despite open economy, says report

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, September 19, 2012 - Vietnam's promotion of an open economy belies harsh conditions for the press that stifle the flow of information with censorship, surveillance, and imprisonments, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in a special report released today.

The upcoming trial on anti-state charges of three prominent bloggers - Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Phan Thanh Hai - could result in up to 20-year prison terms, underscoring the extreme risks that journalists in Vietnam face for expressing independent views. CPJ's report on Vietnam's press freedom situation coincides with the highly anticipated trial, set for September 24.

"Vietnam's government portrays itself as the sole guardian of the country's national interest, yet economic slowdown, state-backed land grabs, and perceived territorial concessions to China are increasingly criticized by independent bloggers," said CPJ Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin. "In response, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's administration has cracked down hard on journalists, dissidents, and activists - a policy that should be reversed."

Vietnam's Central Propaganda Department directs the news agendas of all mainstream print publications and blacklists journalists who report on politically sensitive topics, CPJ found. Forbidden subjects include human rights abuses, top-level government corruption, and anti-China sentiment. Foreign media are also subject to tight controls and surveillance. According to CPJ research, there are at least 14 journalists jailed in Vietnam.

Government officials have also tightened online censorship and surveillance, and aim to enact new laws that would prohibit anonymous blogging and require companies like Facebook and Google to keep offices that could be more readily monitored in the country. CPJ's report shows how prohibitive new laws and other measures have eroded Internet freedoms in Vietnam.

"Repression and harassment perpetuate a culture of fear and self-censorship for journalists in Vietnam. The government needs to bring its policies in line with international standards on freedom of expression," Crispin said.

Download the special report:
Vietnam_CPJ_special_report_2012.pdf (1076 KB)

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