Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has said it would formally request a revision of the disciplinary action against a doctor who was fined VND5 million (US$220) for allegedly defaming the health minister on Facebook, following public outcry.
In an announcement on Saturday, the office of the ministry elaborated on its earlier request that the actions of Dr. Hoang Cong Truyen, a practitioner at a medical center in Phong Dien District, Thua Thien-Hue Province, be “verified and handled.”
Truyen had in July posted a status to his personal Facebook page asserting that Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien should resign due to her poor performance in advisory work and other matters relating to security at local hospitals.
The post also included an image of Minister Tien.
A ‘verification’ process that followed found Truyen’s Facebook post to be of offensive nature and hurt the health minister’s reputation, giving grounds to a monetary penalty of VND5 million imposed by the provincial Department of Information and Communications.
Truyen was also required to write a report on his violation and reprimanded by the Phong Dien healthcare center in August.
However, after the incident made local headlines, there was a public backlash against the ministry’s move, described as a crude attempt to silence criticism.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday, Nguyen Xuan Truong, chief of office of the health ministry, said the ministry’s request to “handle” the case had not been meant to discipline Truyen, but rather to remind him about his use of impolite words against the health minister.
The office of the ministry is expected to issue a formal request on Sunday asking Thua Thien-Hue’s Department of Health to revoke the reprimand the Phong Dien healthcare center gave Truyen.
Regarding the monetary fine, the ministry said it would ask other provincial authorities to reconsider the decision, since the Department of Information and Communications is not within its scope of governance.
On Saturday, Hoang Van Duc, chief of office of the provincial Department of Health, said the department would be willing to revoke Truyen’s punishment if the Department of Information and Communications was to withdraw its.
Duc elaborated that their decision had been based on conclusions by the Department of Information and Communications that Truyen had violated laws by “slandering the honor and dignity of another individual” online.
“If the Department of Information and Communications was wrong and decides to revoke its administrative fine against Doctor Truyen, we will also reverse our disciplinary action against him,” Duc said.