The Vietnamese government announced on 1st November that the weekly The Gioi, which is under foreign ministry control, will be suspended for publishing readers’ letters which were viewed as out of line with the objectives of the official publication.
The Gioi had been given a licence so that it could cover "Vietnam’s relations with other countries". The Culture and Information ministry accused it of having “strayed from its mission”. The Gioi had only published the opinions of readers criticising members of the government and condemning rampant corruption.
In addition, eight other newspapers are to be punished with fines for having covered problems relating to the introduction of new bank notes in polymer, supposed to replace old bills made of cotton-based material. These fines are against big circulation newspapers Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre and Nguoi Lao Dong as well as against Nha Bao va Cong Luan, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Vietnam, Saigon Tiep Thi, An Ninh Tu Do and The Thao va Van Hoa.
Two newspapers closed for reporting about new banknotes
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the government’s closure of two Vietnamese newspapers for one month after they ran articles about the poor quality of the new banknotes that were recently put in circulation. Six other newspapers and magazines have also been accused of publishing “false information” and face possible sanctions.
“Vietnam rose a few places in our 2006 press freedom ranking but this kind of authoritarian decision could make it fall again next year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The government has decided that the currency is a matter of secrecy and it has punished two small newspaper in order to put the others on their guard. We all on the government to rescind these measures and to let the press work freely.”
The one-month closures were imposed by the culture and information ministry on 20 October on the weekly Thoi Dai (Time), which is published by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Associations, and the biweekly Cong Ly (Justice), published by the People’s Supreme Court. Both wrote about the poor quality of the new polymer banknotes.
The new banknotes are a sensitive subject. The central bank governor’s son was the intermediary between the polymer paste supplier and the manufacturer. His role is controversial and he is indirectly responsible for the poor quality of the banknotes. The press has also reported that they are being forged in China, although they were supposed to be impossible to forge.
The closures follow the adoption of a decree in July 2006 that allows administrative measures to be taken against anyone publishing “secrets” or “harmful” information. The communist government did not appreciate the media’s active role in exposing a scandal about embezzlement of international funds within the transport ministry.
The culture and information ministry today also banned the business magazine Kinh Doanh Va San Pham (Business and Products) for publishing articles advising men how to improve their sexual importance. The Associated Press news agency said the authorities were also considering withdrawing the press accreditation of the magazine’s editors and reporters. The deputy minister said it had not adhered to its established editorial line.