The free flow of ideas, information and expression are the foundation of a stable and prosperous society. The written word has been used to great effect since the creation of the printed press to develop discussion, debate, argument and conversation. The Foreign Secretary recently spoke about “the heroism and determination of… journalists in Moscow, and bloggers in Aleppo that ultimately bring freedom, openness and sustainable democracy to their societies.”
A number of organisations monitor this issue across the world because it is so important. One of these, the World Press Freedom Index, ranks Vietnam near the bottom of their index (172 out of 176 countries) and independent research in 2010 highlighted that nearly 88% of journalists interviewed said they had been victims of various forms of obstruction, including from government officials. Further between 2010 and 2012 attacks and harassment of journalists increased from 9 to 32 cases. While there are no official statistics about the challenges bloggers face, the recent, frequent reports both on mainstream and social media about the arrest, trial and conviction of bloggers also raise concerns about these citizen journalists’ ability to express their views safely online.
The British Government and partners (such as the BBC and RED Communication) continue to work with the media sector to enhance journalists’ reporting skills, ethical performance and awareness of their rights and responsibilities under Vietnamese law. Important recent activities include research on obstruction of journalists, in particular journalists dealing with corruption cases, highlighting the issues through partners in Vietnamese TV and radio, and work with the Dak Lak provincial government to produce guidance for journalists on how to handle obstruction. The positive role of social media in society has also been highlighted in many workshops organised in the last three years.
Future plans include promoting better links between the UK and Vietnamese media, training on better reporting and on topics such as digital, ethical and investigative journalism and support for the development of a revised press law.
One of Vietnam’s influential blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh writes about freedom of expression
Foreign Secretary William Hague marks 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day