Monday, January 17, 2005

RSF protests crackdown against online press

Paris-based Reporters san Frontieres (Reporters without Borders) reported Jan. 12 on Vietnam's crackdown against the online press in recent weeks, which it says is led by Politburo member Nguyen Khoa Diem, head of the Communist Party central committee's ideology and culture commission. It noted that in "just three weeks, three publications - Tuoi Tre, and - have been banned or brought to book." It also protested the legal action taken Jan. 5 against Tuoi Tre journalist Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, who was charged "with posting two briefs quoting a note from the Health Minister classified as a 'state secret'. In it the minister called for an investigation into the abnormally high prices set by pharmaceutical business Zuellig Pharma VN."

It noted an order issued Nov. 8 of last year by PM Pham Van Khai against the online press agency, run by the state-owned Internet provider FTP - a state-owned company, after it had published articles along with reader reaction in Oct. 2004, reporting the government purchase of 78 Mercedes for the Europe-Asia (ASEM) conference. On Jan. 10, the governement closed down the (Vietnam News) website, apparently because of letters from readers it had published. Despite the government's announced campaigns against corruption, it seems that reporting on this subject can still be risky business for reporters with state-sponsored news agencies in Vietnam. (Reporters Without Borders press release Jan. 12).


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