Vietnam readies stricter press laws

alerts-button.jpgStrict new press regulations will take effect in Vietnam starting in July, reports coming out of the country say, amid signs that national leaders are growing wary of trend for more aggressive and enterprising journalism. The Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA) is reporting that a new decree has been unsheathed that will, among other things, punish “denying revolutionary achievements” and require journalists to have articles reviewed before publication.Vietnam’s press is entirely state-controlled, with government running the broadcasting sector and print industry. In recent years, however, journalists have been pushing the envelope on investigative and social reporting, shedding light on poverty and health matters as well as corruption issues. Many Vietnamese journalists contend that while such topics as democracy and Vietnam’s one-party socialist system are still taboos, they have started to exploit more state openness to public discussions about corruption and governance.

A recent scandal that forced the resignation of the transport minister and the arrest of his deputy over embezzlement of some 7 million dollars in state funds, however, appears to have forced the hand of government.

The DPA says that a new Decree on Cultural and Information Activities has been signed by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, and will take effect on July 1.

“Under the new rules, Vietnamese journalists can be fined 3 million dong (190 dollars) for publishing stories with anonymous sources and up to 7 million dong (450 dollars) for refusing to allow an interviewee to read an article before publication,” the news agency reports, citing a copy of the decree that it says it had seen. The wire service adds: “Disseminating reactionary ideology is banned, along with any articles that reveal ‘Party secrets, state secrets, military secrets and economic secrets,’ which carry fines of up to 30 million dong ( 2,000 dollars).”

Vietnam’s criminal laws already mete out prison terms of up to 15 years for stories that “reveal state secrets”.

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