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Expert, politician admonish Vietnam to rein in newswires after newspaper’s shutdown

Expert, politician admonish Vietnam to rein in newswires after newspaper’s shutdown

Sunday, August 17, 2014, 17:24 GMT+7

A National Assembly deputy, journalism expert and lawyer have urged for tightened control and radical problem-solving regarding the management of newswires in Vietnam after a news website was closed and fined earlier this week for publishing an insulting article to attract views.

On Friday, the Ministry of Information and Communications imposed a 3-month suspension from publishing on Tri Thuc Tre (Young Intellectuals) newswire after it ran an article titled “Gái miền Tây và 3 chữ ‘N’ nổi danh thiên hạ” (Mekong Delta Girls and 3 Famous N’s) at http://ttvn.vn on August 12.

The newswire, under the management of the Vietnam Association of Young Scientists and Engineers, was penalized for seriously violating local regulations on journalism, according to a decision announced the same day by the ministry.

It was also required to pay a fine of VND207 million (US$9,773), the ministry said in the decision.

In the article, the author used extremely rude content to degrade women coming from the Mekong Delta and thus incite regional discrimination.

The article sparked fury and harsh criticisms from many people, especially those coming from the delta, which is also known as the southwestern part of Vietnam.

The case is the latest example of view attracting which has been increasingly rampant among local newswires that usually publish stories conveying sensational, slanderous, and defamatory information.

Le Nhu Tien, a National Assembly deputy, pointed to the loopholes in the management of local newswires and news portals.

He also urged for regular inspection, drastic measures, and harsh penalties on violators.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Nguyen Van Dung, dean of the Academy of Journalism and Communication’s Journalism Faculty, highlighted the Ministry of Information and Communications’ accountability in granting permits to press agencies and overseeing their operation.

He recommended that the ministry thoroughly inspect the applying agencies’ conditions, particularly their financial status and personnel, before granting them any permit.

A press agency without a solid financial background is highly likely to do everything to survive, including luring views, creating clickbaits, and attracting ads at all costs.

Lawyer Hoang Cao Sang, of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, said that a girl from the Mekong Delta phoned him and asked if she could sue Tri Thuc Tre newswire following the publishing of the offensive article. His reply was an absolute “yes.”

“Though we have Journalism Law and related regulations, their application remains inadequate. For example, there should be specific terms on how to penalize acts of defaming others instead of general, inapplicable regulations,” he stressed.

Sang added that though those suffering from the derogatory article can take legal actions and claim compensations, if any, Vietnamese readers are not hardwired to do so.

In reality, a civilian would encounter numerous difficulties suing a press agency which is more than ready to use tricks to conceal their wrongs and nullify the person’s accusations, the lawyer elaborated.

In recent years, the Ministry of Information and Communications has punished several newswires for similar offenses.

Truong Minh Tuan, the deputy minister, affirmed that his ministry will continue to remind local press agencies to avoid such offenses, and will work with certain newswires and impose stern penalties on them for their violations in the coming time.

He added that the ministry will also adopt radical macrocosmic adjustments to better prevent and cope with journalistic offenses.

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