On 7 July 2014, Reporters Without Borders hailed the creation of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), the country's first such organization. Its launch on 4 July in Ho Chi Minh City saw the biggest-ever gathering of journalists to promote freely reported and politically independent information.
Well-known journalists are IJAVN members. Its president, Pham Chi Dung, and one of its vice-presidents, Le Ngoc Thanh, are Reporters Without Borders "Information Heroes." The number of members has already risen from 42 on 4 July to 64 today.
The IJAVN's goals are to:
- • Honestly reflect profound and burning societal and national issues
- • Criticize the state's irrational policies regarding social management and media freedom
- • Host exchanges and dialogues with the authorities on media freedom and social management whenever possible
- • Support physical, spiritual and active mutual assistance and solidarity among its members
- • Take whatever action is necessary to defend those who are harassed, arrested, imprisoned or terrorized for promoting social progress in what they write
- • Attract young writers and train them to contribute to Vietnam's future professional journalism
- • Create a favourable environment for all journalists, whether contributors to independent news sites or employed by state-controlled media.
Based in Ho Chi Minh City, the IJAVN plans to organize seminars, cooperate with NGOs and launch an online news outlet to which independent journalists and others will contribute.
"This association's creation is excellent news for freedom of information in Vietnam," said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. "It will act as an additional shield for independent news providers and will clearly encourage the flow of information free of any state control. It can already count on our unconditional support."
Dung, the IJAVN's president said: "We are looking for international support and hope to get concrete assistance from Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Project Journalists and PEN International."
Asked about the 35 journalists and bloggers currently detained in Vietnam, Dung told RWB: "We are disappointed that the sentences of Pham Viet Dao and Truong Duy Nhat were upheld on appeal last month. We will send a petition to the government calling for their immediate release and we will urge international NGOs to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities."
Dung added: "We will also draw the media's attention to Nguyen Huu Vinh, Dieu Cay and Ta Phong Tan, the three detained bloggers who set up the Free Journalist Club."
The IJAVN intends to cover the entire country. Dung will be assisted by three vice-presidents based in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Dalat respectively. Le Ngoc Thanh will coordinate the IJAVN's activities in the south, Nguyen Tuong Thuy in the north and Bui Minh Quoc in the centre.
The IJAVN says it will function according to democratic principles, including the free flow of information and decision-making by consensus or majority vote, and that it will act in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.