Communist Vietnam maintains strict control over all local media. The role of journalists and the media in Communist Vietnam has traditionally been to cast the Communist Party and its activities in a positive light put forward by propaganda of the Communist Party of Vietnam ( CPV or VCP). Things have opened up somewhat since the economic reforms in the 1980s but their primary goal remains the same. Foreign media representatives are allowed to live in the country but are subject to restrictions on where they can travel and what they can report.

The Vietnamese government controls all broadcast media exercising oversight through the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). Although an official description of the press, offered by the Sixth National Party Congress, defines the media's role as being "the voice of the party and of the masses," and identifies its task as being to "propagate the party's lines and policies," as well as to report and analyze the news, the Vietnamese press is much more a medium for educating the public and filtering information, than for reporting news. It is controlled by the VCP Central Committee's Propaganda and Training Department in accordance with guidelines established by the Ministry of Culture, and both agencies act to ensure that it reflects the policies and positions of the party. [Source: Library of Congress, 1980s *]

In the 1990s there were only one television per 31 people, one radio per 10 people, and one telephone per 544 people in Vietnam. Internet and cable TV access to international news, entertainment and sport is rising in the main centers, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, places that were relatively isolated just 15 years ago. In the late 1980s, there emerged increasing evidence within the media that a movement might be underway to change the character of the press. Articles stressing the importance of investigative reporting, calling for more journalistic freedom to report accurately, and defending the right of the people to be heard, appeared in many of the leading newspapers. The movement appeared to be led by a small but influential group of journalists seeking to make the press more assertive by emphasizing accurate reporting and a more balanced reflection of public opinion. *

In September 2012, Chris Brummitt of AP reported: "All media in Vietnam is tightly controlled, but free speech activists say enforcement is getting tougher by a government that fears that hard-hitting journalism and social media are eroding its grip over the people. There are currently at least five journalists and 19 bloggers being held on various charges in Vietnam, according to the international watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Editors and journalists in Vietnam do not have to submit everything they print or broadcast to state censors, but are well aware of which topics they are to avoid. In 2008, a journalist for Thanh Nien newspaper was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of a high-profile corruption case at the transport ministry. [Source: Chris Brummitt, AP, September 7, 2012]

See Separate Articles on Communications and the Internet

Government Control of the Media in Vietnam

Vietnam bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run. Vietnamese lawyers, bloggers and activists are regularly subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, according to rights groups. Bloggers, activists and others are routinely arrested and imprisoned. Foreign media representatives are allowed to live in Vietnam but are subject to restrictions on where they can travel and what they can report.

The Vietnamese Communist Party controls all local media, which are managed either by the government or its affiliated organizations. Vietnam’s mass media are supervised by the Ministry of Culture and Information and communicate officially approved information. The government has shut down non-compliant newspapers. Only senior officials are permitted access to foreign television via satellite. Given Vietnam’s close supervision of official media outlets, dissidents have sought to disseminate their views via the Internet, leading the government to impose restrictions on Internet use and access. [Source: Library of Congress]

According to Article 80 of Vietnam’s constitution, criticism of the government can be labeled as espionage and violators can be sentenced to long jail terms. People can criticize the government in private but not in public. In 1998, a general was thrown out of the Communist party for noting: "the confidence of the people towards the party has seriously deteriorated, if it has not totally disappeared." Open discussion on the war is still a taboo topic. But political jokes are popular.

According to guidelines issued in the early 2000s to "enhance responsibility in news reporting," any newspaper that runs articles previously banned by the government face fines up to $5,000. Those publishing stories "describing sexual or thrilling behavior"," pornographic pictures or articles containing "superstitious attitudes" have fines of up to $2,000. In January 2009, editors of two major Vietnamese newspapers were fired for protesting the arrest of two of their journalist who wrote on a high profile corruption case.

Censorship and Freedom of the Press in Vietnam

According to Freedom House: "Although the 1992 constitution recognizes freedom of expression, the criminal code prohibits speech that is critical of the government. The definition of such speech is vaguely worded and broadly interpreted. The propaganda and training departments of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) control all media and set press guidelines. The government frequently levies charges under Article 88 of the criminal code, which prohibits the dissemination of "antigovernment propaganda," as well as Article 79, a broad ban on activities aimed at "overthrowing the state." Reacting to increasingly vibrant reporting by both the traditional and internet-based news media, the government issued a decree in 2006 that defined over 2,000 additional violations of the law in the areas of culture and information, with a particular focus on protecting "national security." [Source: Freedom House |:|]

In January 2011, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed Decree No. 2, Sanctions for Administrative Violations in Journalism and Publishing. The decree restricts the use of pseudonyms and anonymous sources, and distinguishes between credentialed journalists and citizen bloggers, ostensibly to exclude the latter from press freedom protections. The judiciary is not independent. Individuals are held for months or longer in pretrial detention and sometimes not released after completing their sentences. Many trials related to free expression last only a few hours. |:|

The CPV generally views the media as a tool for the dissemination of party and state policy. Criticism of government leaders and Vietnam’s policy toward China, as well as calls for religious freedom and democratic reforms, are the topics most commonly targeted for official censorship or retribution. Journalists are sometimes permitted to report official corruption at the local level, as it serves the interests of the CPV’s national anticorruption platform, but they are increasingly silenced for reporting on higher-level misdeeds. Foreign reporters are often required to remain in the capital, Hanoi, and face disciplinary action from the propaganda department for covering politically sensitive topics. |:|

Freedom of the Press in Vietnam 2012

According to Freedom House: "Police often use violence, intimidation, and raids of homes and offices to silence journalists who report on sensitive topics. Bùi Chát, head of the publishing house Giay Vu.n, was detained for questioning a number of times after returning to Vietnam in April 2011, having traveled to Argentina to accept the Freedom to Publish Prize from the International Publishers Association. He remained under close surveillance by the authorities at year’s end. Several raids of homes and offices occurred during the year. In November and again in December, police raided the home of cyberactivist Huy'nh Ngoc Tuan, confiscated mobile telephones, cameras, and a computer, and fined his family 270 million dong ($13,000). [Source: Freedom House |:|]

Despite expectations that the government would loosen restrictions after the Communist Party Congress in January, Vietnam narrowed the space for press freedom in 2011. Officials grew increasingly intolerant regarding calls for democracy and criticism of Vietnam’s policy toward China. Legal protections for journalists and bloggers deteriorated with the passage of Decree No. 2, which imposes stiff penalties on journalists who refuse to reveal sources. |:|

In November 2011, two broadcasters, Vu'c Trung and Lê Van Thành, were found guilty of transmitting Falun Gong programming into China and sentenced to three years and two years in prison, respectively. Though officials originally charged both with minor administrative violations, they were upgraded to criminal charges after significant pressure from China. |:|

In July 2011, police detained and questioned reporters from Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun and Japanese television broadcaster NHK for covering public protests against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Guardian reporter Dustin Roasa was denied entry to Vietnam in October due to a story he wrote in January about the country’s crackdown on prodemocracy activism on the internet. In addition, two of Roasa’s Vietnamese sources fled the country after authorities threatened them with imprisonment for their involvement in the article. Foreign journalists were not permitted to enter the village of Huoi Khon in May after reports surfaced that the military had dispersed an ethnic religious gathering, leaving dozens killed or injured. |:|

Several underground publications have been launched in recent years, including To Quoc, which continues to circulate despite harassment of staff members, and Tu. Do Ngôn Luan, whose editor, Father Nguyen Van Lý, was rearrested in July 2011 after being granted temporary medical parole 16 months earlier. Radio is controlled by the government-run Voice of Vietnam or other state entities. State-owned Vietnam Television (VTV) is the only national television provider, although cable services do carry some foreign channels. Many homes and local businesses in urban areas have satellite dishes, allowing them to access foreign programming. In May, Decision 20/2011 came into effect, requiring all foreign news, education, and information television content to be translated into Vietnamese and censored by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) before airing. The decision will place onerous demands on foreign stations and is expected to cause several foreign outlets to withdraw from broadcasting in the country. International periodicals, though widely available, are sometimes censored. |:|


The Vietnamese government controls all broadcast media exercising oversight through the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). The government-controlled national TV provider, Vietnam Television (VTV), operates a network of 9 channels with several regional broadcasting centers. Programming is relayed nationwide via a network of provincial and municipal TV stations. Laws limits access to satellite TV but many households are able to access foreign programming via home satellite equipment. As of 2003, Vietnam had 3.6 million televisions, or 43.73 per 1,000 people. Television broadcast stations numbered at least seven in 1998.[Source: CIA World Factbook, Library of Congress]

The Central Television network was created in 1970. By the mid-1980s, five channels were known to broadcast from twenty-one transmission sites in Vietnam. Viewers were served by two channels in Hanoi, one in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Da Nang; Hue, Can Tho, and Qui Nhon were served by another channel. There may have been broadcasts from Nha Trang and Vinh as well. Television Vietnam offered programs in color and in black and white. Black and white daily national programming was broadcast from Hanoi, on Monday through Friday, for ninety minutes a day and, on Saturday and Sunday, for three hours a day. By 2000, 90 percent of urban households had a color television. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987]

The Vietnamese government controls access to foreign television broadcasts. Satellite dishes are strictly regulated in Myanmar and Vietnam but not in Laos. At hotels foreigners can watch CNN. MSNBC, the BBC, Japanese television, Chinese television, French television. The government produced a daiy satellite television broadcast that is aimed at North America. The boadcats, most Communist proaganda, are aimed expatriate Vietnamese.

Restrictions on privately-run television stations were eased on in the early 2000s By the mid 2000s, entertainment programs blossomed on VTC, cable channels, Binh Duong TV, and others. Before people could afford their own DVD machines they liked to go community video parlors to watch movies.

TV Censorship and Restrictions on Satellite TV in Vietnam

In 2002, Margot Cohen wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, "Complete blackout or partial censorship? That question is up in the air in Vietnam, as the government moves to restrict the access of ordinary citizens to international satellite TV programming. Everyone can still watch science and sports programmes. But only top Communist Party officials, high-ranking government leaders and foreigners are allowed under a new directive to watch other programmes, including news and feature films. [Source: Margot Cohen, The Far Eastern Economic Review, January 1, 2002 ]

"However, the new rules may prove more flexible. Disagreement appears to be brewing between the state-owned Vietnam Television, popularly known as VTV, which has been providing cable services to ordinary Vietnamese, and the Ministry of Culture and Information, which proposed the new government order. In recent years VTV has reaped profits by marketing to Vietnamese families cable packages that include CNN, MTV and Star Movies--basically flouting a government ban imposed in 1996. Referring to a potential blackout, one VTV staffer told the REVIEW that "our customers don't want to see it happen." VTV employees say the station will continue offering CNN, for example, though they plan to censor some broadcasts--either cutting into live programming or pre-selecting CNN shows to be aired. So far, there's no explanation from Hanoi on why it is necessary to crack down on overseas broadcasts at this time."

In 2002, Thai Thanh wrote in the Saigon Times Daily, "The Government has reiterated the determination to limit the number of agencies and individuals allowed to view satellite programs aired by television stations abroad. Decision 79/2002/QD-TTg, signed on June 18, 2002 by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, specifies that only leaders of the Party, the Government, centrally-run agencies and mass organizations and deputy ministers can use TVRO equipment to view satellite television programs. [Source: Thai Thanh, Saigon Times Daily, June 24, 2002 ]

"This regulation also covers deputy Party chiefs, vice chairpersons of the People's committees and councils at the city or provincial level. Agencies under the ministries of Public Security, Defense and Foreign Affairs, and other Party and Government agencies can also use TVRO equipment to watch satellite programs for their permissible purposes. Viewing of satellite TV programs is also allowed at press agencies which publish daily newspapers, newspapers at the central level, in Hanoi and HCMC covering the country's external relations, and publications managed by centrally-governed mass organizations. Vietnam Television, Voice of Vietnam, and radio and stations at the regional and local levels are also eligible to watch foreign satellite TV programs.

"Others allowed to use TVRO equipment include foreign agencies and organizations, resident offices of foreign news agencies and newspapers, foreign-invested companies, offices of organizations established by Vietnam and foreign countries in the economic, cultural, tourist and scientific fields under the joint venture form, and hotels of one-star rating or above where there are international tourists.

"The decision also requires TVRO equipment users to view the programs they register, and TVRO equipment importers, traders, installers and repairers to ask for permission from the Trade Ministry. Television stations abroad must seek approval of the Ministry of Culture and Information if they want to sell their TVRO equipment through their distributors in Vietnam. The distributors are also required to obtain written approval from the ministry. Television agencies are also told to directly air the sport and scientific programs under the pay-per-view term to their allowed subscribers in line with the contracts signed between them.

Vietnamese television is generally pretty drab. For a long time the news was read by announcers in military uniforms. Most of the images were of factories, farms and visits and photo ops by top leaders. Today, the most popular television programs are game shows and music contests. See Below

Game Shows in Vietnam

Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "The game show contestant is sweating. The final question will determine whether she will win the round and walk away with the prize. "What animal is the bridge on the Mekong Delta named for?" a female host asks. Before Trang, the contestant, can react, her rival blurts out the correct answer: monkey. "I didn't do too well," Trang says glumly, looking forlorn on a set bathed in bright lights and festooned with tinsel and colorful balloons.Her pain will be broadcast to the nation when the game show episode airs. Talk about jeopardy: Trang is only 9 years old. [Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006 *]

"Vietnam is awash in television game shows. Its eight major TV stations air more than 50 of them, many in prime time. There are programs geared toward children, or teens, or seniors. Some cater to niche audiences, such as the show that tests soldiers on military life -- still revered in this nominally communist nation. The game shows reflect Vietnam's rapid economic development. In the last decade, a middle class has emerged. Pit toilets are giving way to modern conveniences, cars are replacing motorcycles, and 90 percent of Vietnamese households have television sets. Game shows are helping to influence Vietnam's first TV generation just as television transformed American culture in the 1950s. *

"As in China, the government controls the TV stations here. Before game shows began taking off in the last few years, programming focused mainly on government announcements and dreary education-oriented fare. The Communist government has been flexible with game shows because they don't have political content. Private entrepreneurs have been allowed to produce the programs, and networks are buying licensing rights and importing games from the U.S., Japan and Europe." *

Educational Value of Vietnamese Game Shows?

Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "In a society where education is seen as the way to economic freedom, Vietnamese say these TV programs serve as mass education. They are teaching people about world history, healthful living and modern lifestyles. On a recent Sunday afternoon, the eyes of friends Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep and Nguyen Thu Hien were glued to a large flat-panel Sony television in a relative's home here. The two 22-year-old women, who work as receptionists at foreign-based firms, played along as three families battled on "Sunday at Home," which quizzes contestants about health and homemaking. [Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006 *]

This week's subject was about bathing. "To help you lose weight, what should you put into the bath water?" the host, wearing a red miniskirt, asked the three teams. "A) green tea leaves; B) ginkgo leaves; or C) Vietnamese mint leaves?" The Vu family hit the bell first and answered C.

"Whoosh!" came the sound, telling them they were wrong. The Phams were next. Green tea leaves, they said. Drums banged, as the couple and their two sons took home the top prize: an air conditioner valued at $260. "Oh, I never knew that," said Hien after hearing the correct answer. Added Diep: "I must try it to have attractive skin and then every man would be attracted to me." *

Some Vietnamese see game shows as a chance to get their 15 minutes of fame. Others hope that old friends or long-lost relatives will see them on TV and contact them. Many regard game shows as a kind of public IQ test. "I want to test my intelligence," said Trang, the 9-year-old "Fairy Garden" contestant, who acknowledged that her parents had pushed her to sign up for the show. *

But there is also fear that the idiot box will live up to its name and that Vietnam will turn into a nation of couch potatoes. "When TV has so many shows like that, it's not good for the youth because they spend most of their time watching TV without doing anything," said Nguyen Chau, a sociologist at Hanoi University of Foreign Studies. "They waste their youth." Chau, the Hanoi sociologist, says the trend may be short-lived. Calling game-show watching a cheap, passive form of entertainment, he says people may favor other leisure activities as their incomes rise. *

Popular Vietnamese Game Shows

Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Among the most popular: Vietnamese knockoffs of American shows such as "The Price Is Right" and "Wheel of Fortune," the latter called "Magic Hat" here because contestants spin not a wheel but a non la, the cone-shaped Vietnamese hat. The shows beget more shows, which beget even more. Vietnamese television "just can't deliver enough punches," says Allen Wu, chairman of East Media Holdings Inc., a Santa Fe Springs-based company with operations in Ho Chi Minh City. "Audiences say it's not enough for them," said Bui Thu Thuy, manager of TV game shows for VTV 3, part of the national Vietnamese Television network in Hanoi.[Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006 *]

"Thuy of VTV 3 says several game shows, including "Magic Hat" and "The Price Is Right," capture 35 percent to 40 percent of the viewers in Hanoi. The Nielsen rating for "Sunday at Home" used to be even higher, she says, adding that the hourlong program still generates a solid $2,000 for each 30-second ad spot on a Sunday afternoon. Seeing such numbers, Vietnam's provincial networks are hastily coming up with their own game shows or knockoffs of the most popular games from the United States, France, Japan. And more games are on the way as foreigners and overseas Vietnamese returnees get in on the new national pastime. *

The prizes are a big draw. "Sunday at Home" offers housewares and appliances. Other shows, such as "Fairy Garden," give out books and scholarships. One of the richest is "Ai La Trieu Phu?" or "Who Is the Millionaire?" Except that in Vietnam, the winner gets 100 million dong, or about $6,500 -- about 10 times the average annual income. No one has correctly answered the 15 questions to win that prize in the two years that the show has aired. *

Vietnamese Game Show Contestants

Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Every week, thousands of Vietnamese such as the Phams and Vus line up for a chance to play on TV. Pham Hong Nga, 32, and her husband waited four years before producers of "Sunday at Home" told them this summer that they might be selected soon. After that, the Hanoi couple never left the house together. They took turns going out at night so they wouldn't miss a phone call. Nga, a mother of two, says she went to bed every night with her cellphone next to her. The call finally came on a recent Thursday evening. "I was so excited I couldn't talk," said Nga, who has since been preparing for the show by reading up on plumbing and cooking. [Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006 *]

Vu Thu Trang, a 34-year-old Ho Chi Minh City resident who recently appeared on "Magic Hat," the Hanoi production of "Wheel of Fortune." Trang had waited four years to get on the show. When that day finally came, she wore a new long, pink dress to the studio. She breezed through the first three rounds, collecting $225 in prize money. Her opponents kept landing on "lost" or "miss a turn." *

That put Trang into the special bonus round. She was playing for more than $2,600. She had guessed three letters among the 10 on the lighted board. But the clue -- famous song in the fall -- left Trang stumped. She was down to her last few seconds. Then she remembered a movie she had seen and its theme song: "The Charming Fall." "That's right," the host shouted. Trang's parents rushed on stage to hug her. Her five friends in the audience jumped up and down. "All I could say was, 'Thank you, thank you,' " Trang said. "I was on top of the world." *

Vietnamese Game Show Fans

Don Lee wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Vietnam is awash in television game shows. Its eight major TV stations air more than 50 of them, many in prime time. There are programs geared toward children, or teens, or seniors. Some cater to niche audiences, such as the show that tests soldiers on military life -- still revered in this nominally communist nation. In the United States, watching game shows tends to be the domain of older folks. In Vietnam, the biggest fans are young people, whose rising family incomes and growing viewership of game shows are boosting TV stations' ratings and ad rates. [Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2006 *]

"In everyday life here, it's not hard to find people who have some connection to TV game shows. Nguyen Minh Loc, a 23-year-old English tutor in Hanoi, sometimes translates game show scripts. Le Minh Tuan, a press officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says matter-of-factly that he has been on two quiz shows — high-browed ones, he boasts — and won $50 each time. "Everybody wants to be on a game show," he says. Nguyen Van Anh, 24, is brushing up on history so she can do well on "Following the Stream of History." She applied five months ago, but may have to wait a year or more to get on. Anh, a graduate student, isn't daunted. One of her classmates, she says, made it on the show and came away with $44 and a four-day trip to a tourist town in the central highlands. *

"Nguyen Hoa, 22, a senior at the University of Natural Sciences in Hanoi, said she was too busy to apply. But not too busy to watch. Although South Korean television dramas have been the rage in Asia in recent years, Hoa said she would rather take in a good game show. Her favorite: "Catch the Image," on which contestants try to figure out the identities of famous people as their faces are revealed bit by bit. "I never miss it," Hoa said. Television producers say that if people are hooked on game shows now, the genre, having started in Vietnam just a decade ago, will only get stronger. *

Vietnam's Next Top Model

Nguo'i mau Viet Nam (Vietnam's Next Top Model, often abbreviated as VNNTM) is a Vietnamese reality television show in which a number of women compete for the title of Vietnam's Next Top Model and a chance to start their career in the modeling industry. The show is based upon America's Next Top Model. And as part of Top Model franchise, there is the host and the head judge like talk-show host and model Tyra Banks in the original franchise. The show shares the same format. The premiere in September 2010 was among the highest-rated shows in Vietnamese broadcasting. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The series features a group of young female contestants, aged between 18 and 25, who live together in a house for several months while taking part in challenges, photo shoots and meetings with members of the modelling industry. Normally, one poor-performing contestant is eliminated each week until the last contestant remaining is crowned "Vietnam's Next Top Model" and receives a modelling contract for representation and other prizes. +

The First season of Vietnam's Next Top Model had 16 episodes and starts with 15 contestants. The second one will feature more hopefuls within 17 episodes. Each episode, one contestant is occasionally eliminated, though in rare cases a multiple elimination was given by consensus of the judging panel. Makeovers are administered to contestants early in the season. The first cycle were run by two panels of judges. The first one included male model Nathan Lee, who was set to host the whole season together with his fellows: international female model Elizabeth Thuy Tiên and fashion designer Hoàng Ngân. They, whereas, were axed all and were replaced by the latter one of Hà Anh, Huy Võ and Du'c Hai right after the casting process. +

Vietnam Unsettled by 'Pop Idol' Contest

In 2004, Quynh Le of the BBC News wrote: "Vietnam's first Pop Idol-style competition has already unsettled viewers and the authorities. One judge has been berated for making harsh comments, and the programme's makers, National Television, have been rebuked by the Ministry of Culture for selecting judges without "sufficient political or professional merits". The show, named Sao Mai - Diem Hen (Morning Star - A Destination) is not Vietnam's first televised singing contest. However, in past programmes, the results were always decided by a panel of judges, and few winners became major stars. Vietnam National Television (VTV) hopes that the format change will win more attention for the contest. [Source: By Quynh Le, BBC News, July 15, 2004 ////]

"As in the UK and US versions, 12 contestants will perform live over 10 weeks in front of a four-judge panel, who offer a critique but do not decide who has to go home. The audience gets to vote for the winner by text message. The organizers have invited specialists from GMM Grammy, a leading Thai entertainment company, to help the contestants with make-up and professional training. Three finalists will get an album contract. ////

"Nguyen Hai, from Dong Tay Promotion which co-organizes the show, says the winning contestants will have real crack at stardom. "The contestants will get signed with VTV, while our company will help with the management side of things as part of the promotion strategy." There were some positive press reviews after the show aired on Saturday, but the local press published a number of complaints from journalists and viewers who thought some of the judges' remarks were too rough to bear. One of the judges, poet Do Trung Quan, was singled out for telling a contestant that she was outrageous. He was also attacked for telling a contestant that she had a "too strict dress code". ////

"It could be argued that Do Trung Quan has simply taken on the role performed by Simon Cowell, famous for his sarcastic and sometimes cruel comments in the UK and US versions of Pop Idol. But that kind of attitude has come as a shock for many Vietnamese. The vice-minister of culture sent a letter to VTV, saying the ministry had received numerous complaints from viewers about the judges' style. According to the letter, the judges' comments deviated from the ruling Communist Party's principles of "building and developing Vietnam's culture into an advanced culture imbued with national identities". Asking the VTV to criticise the judges, the ministry suggested that in future episodes, the panel should "include members who have sufficient political and professional merits", and that a "proper working code be practiced in order to avoid similar mistakes". With nine episodes to come, it remains to be seen whether this Pop Idol-style show can win over the government and the Vietnamese audience." ////

Vietnam's Hit TV Show Is Cancelled After Sex Scandal

In 2007, Can Tran wrote on Digital Journal, "Of all of the natural disasters and catastrophes that have plagued Vietnam, the residents aren’t talking about them. Instead, they are talking about a sex video between two teenagers that has been circulated online. So far, Internet forums and message boards have been filled up with messages regarding a sex video between two teenagers. Allegedly, one of the people in the sex video is Hoang Thuy Linh who stars in "Vang Anh’s Diaries" which is a hit TV show in the country of Vietnam. The sex video is supposed to be Hoang Thuy Linh and her boyfriend. [Source: Can Tran, Digital Journal, October 23, 2007 \=]

"According to Hung Nguyen a journalist, this incident has rocked the virtual world of Vietnam. It is considered to the most scandalous and controversial thing happening in the country. The television show was immediately dropped by Vietnam Television just two days after the scandal broke out. It was a five-minute clip recorded o a mobile phone which made its way onto YouTube.However, it is confirmed that there’s a twenty-minute version of the sex-video that is being hosted on other websites. \=\

"Despite Vietnam being a conservative country, they say that it’s not uncommon for teenagers to get involved in sexual relationships. Thuy Linh happens to be a first-year college student while she portrays a school girl in Vang Anh’s Diaries. The reason that this has made quite an impact is because the show is the most popular in Vietnam. Vang Anh’s Diaries focuses on everyday life of Vietnamese school students. The show was already in its second season by the time of the scandal. Vang Anh had already become an idol and parents had approved of the show. \=\

"The parents approved of the show because it was deemed as "educational." It portrayed the children as talented, beautiful, and academically gifted. One kid had said that they watch the show on a regular basis and add that they love Vang Anh because she’s smart and pretty. As a result of the scandal, she wasn’t allowed to watch the show anymore. Her mother simply said that Vang Anh was being a bad girl without any explanation. Currently, there are millions of messages on blogs and forums with debates on whether the actress deserves punishment or sympathy. They are also talking about if she needs to apologize publicly to her fans or not. Both tabloids and newspapers around Vietnam are picking this story up. Thuy Linh has apologized to her parents and begged for the fans to understand her." \=\

Unilever and Proctor & Gamble Top Advertisers in Vietnam

In 2000, the Vietnam News Agency reported" "Companies spent about US$116 million on advertising in Viet Nam last year, an increase of 6 percent compared with 1998's figure of $109 million. Consumer goods giant Unilever topped the list of advertisers, spending over $14 million in 1999, more than doubling its 1998 advertising budget, according to the market research company ACNielsen. "Last year sales of our products increased by over 50 percent and we invested in advertising proportionally to sales," said Loic Tardy, marketing director of Unilever Vietnam. [Source: Vietnam News Agency, March 9, 2000 -]

"Procter & Gamble, which spent $4.11 million on advertising, ranked the second. Coca-Cola also increased its spending on advertising by 46 percent last year and remained the country's third top ad buyer. The list of top-ten spending brands included Omo, Sunsilk, Clear, Viso and P/S Toothpaste. In 1999, companies spent $56 million on TV ads - an increase of 14 percent compared with 1998's figure of $49 million. "Advertisers prefer to invest in television ads, because despite the high cost of each ad spot, it is the medium that reaches the highest number of people," said Rackie Secoquian, associate director at ACNielsen Media International.

Advertising on prime time TV costs between $1,000 and $2,000 for one slot. Ninety six percent of Viet Nam's urban population of 17.9 million own TV sets, tuning in for an average of three hours per day, mainly during the peak viewing hours between 6pm and 9pm. Newcomers to the top ten list of ad buyers were Japanese motorcycle manufacturers Suzuki and Honda, who raced into fifth and seventh positions respectively. Hisamitsu (Salonpas medicated plasters) took the ninth position, edging out pharmaceutical companies Janssen Pharma and Roche Pharma, which both dropped off last year's top ten ranking, along with Kao. The top ten ad buyers in 1999 spent $31 million on advertising, one-third of the country's total expenditure for ads on TV and print media last year. Advertising in the print media, however, decreased 3 percent last year. " -

Vietnam Bans Condom and Toilet Paper Ads During Dinner Time

In 2003, Clare Arthurs of the BBC News service reported: "Vietnam's cultural police have banned television advertisements which promote condoms and toilet paper from being shown at evening mealtimes. The country's carefully staged opening-up to the outside world has meant that its people are being exposed to many new products and practices. [Source: Clare Arthurs, BBC News service, July 16, 2003 ^^]

"But the Ministry of Culture and Information has ruled that some of the modern ways are offending Vietnamese sensibilities. Officials at the ministry told the BBC that the ban followed numerous complaints from TV viewers. The complainants said they did not like watching advertisements for condoms, toilet paper and women's sanitary products while they were eating their evening meal. The ministry said it had made the ruling because the display of such products was unsuitable to the national psyche, manners and customs. ^^

"The ban, which also applies to products for skin complaints, will take effect once it has been published in the government legal gazette. The products will also be banned from display at concerts and other events for public entertainment. Tampons are not widely available in Vietnam, but advertisements for sanitary pads are common. The promotion of condoms is only officially sanctioned to married couples. ^^

"But advertising and the increasing popularity of supermarkets are exposing the public to thousands of new products and ideas. The latest decision does not reflect the concern in some quarters about the spread of HIV/Aids, nor the high number of unwanted teenage pregnancies. But it will raise concern in the advertising industry, which has experienced a recent growth due in part to increased TV revenues." ^^

Vietnam Shuts Newspaper over China Stories

In 2009, Associated Press reported from Hanoi: Authorities in Vietnam have shut down a newspaper for three months for articles that criticized China for asserting its sovereignty over territories claimed by both nations, state-controlled media reported. The Ministry of Information and Communication shut down the semiweekly Du Lich (Tourism) for its "serious violation" of Vietnam's press law, the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said. Although Vietnam's government opposes Chinese policy toward the disputed territories, it wants to maintain friendly relations with its powerful northern neighbor. [Source: Associated Press, April 16, 2009]

Authorities accused the newspaper of publishing untruthful information, inciting violence and sowing hatred between nations, Thanh Nien said. The report did not specify the untruthful information. In its Lunar New Year edition earlier this year, the newspaper ran several articles supporting anti-China protesters, praising them for their "pure patriotism."

Journalist Nguyen Vu Binh Jailed for Five Years for Criticizing the Vietnam Government

Nguyen Vu Binh is a former journalist who worked for 10 years for Tap Chi Cong (Journal of Communism), the official publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In January 2001, he left his post to form the independent Liberal Democratic Party. He has since written several articles calling for political reform and criticizing government policy and is a leading member of the Democracy Club for Vietnam. Nguyen is thought to have been targeted for the online publication of one of his critical essays, "Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement." [Source: PEN American Center ||]

According to PEN’s information, Nguyen has been held incommunicado since September 25, 2002. Following a three-hour trial of the Hanoi People's Court held on December 31, 2003, Nguyen was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for his critical writings, to be followed by three years' house arrest on charges of espionage. Following the proceedings, the official Vietnam news agency reported that Nguyen had been convicted of having "written and exchanged, with various opportunist elements in the country, information and materials that distorted the party and state policies." He is also accused of communicating with "reactionary" organizations abroad. His sentence was upheld on appeal on May 5, 2004. ||

Vu Binh was released on June 9, 2007 from Nam Ha prison under presidential amnesty. Though released from the forced labor camp, Vu Binh will remain under a three-year probationary detention and under strict house arrest. PEN welcomes the news but calls on the Vietnamese government to release other Vietnamese writers and dissidents who have been imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. ||

Corruption-Investigating Vietnamese Journalist Sentenced to Four Years in Jail

In September 2012, Chris Brummitt of AP reported: "A Vietnamese journalist who bribed a police officer as part of an undercover investigation into corruption was sentenced to four years in prison, while the officer who accepted the money got a five-year sentence, state-controlled media reported. Relatives and colleagues of Hoang Khuong stood up and cheered after he made a statement to the court proclaiming his innocence, according to a report by his paper, Tuoi Tre. The reaction appeared to be a rare, albeit modest, show of public defiance toward the state and its Communist rulers, who critics say are launching a renewed crackdown on the media. [Source: Chris Brummitt, AP, September 7, 2012]

Khuong, who has been in jail since February, gave a police officer a bribe of $710 in June 2011 year in order to get an impounded motorbike returned. The 37-year-old paid the bribe as part of reporting on police corruption and later wrote two articles about it that appeared in Tuoi Tre, triggering public anger at the police. Judges at the two-day trial in southern Ho Chi Minh city sentenced him to four years in jail, and the officer who took the money to five, according to a report in Tuoi Tre. Four other people were also sentenced to prison terms in connection with the case, including Khuong's brother-in-law. In a speech before his sentence was handed down, Khuong said he "had honest motives in detecting and fighting corruption in line with party and state policies," and that while he may have committed a journalistic error he had done nothing criminal. Representatives of Tuoi Tre were not permitted to give evidence at the trial. The paper's editors declined comment.

Radio in Vietnam

In 2003 Vietnam had 8.2 million radios, or 100.45 per 1,000 people. There were 65 AM radio stations, 7 FM stations, and 29 shortwave stations. The government-controlled Voice of Vietnam, the national radio broadcaster, broadcasts on 6 channels and is repeated on AM, FM, and shortwave stations throughout Vietnam (2008). For a long time people in Vietnam had to listen to broadcasts of the BBC and the Voice of America on shortwave radios to get a non-Communist Party view of what was going on in the outside world.

By 1986 international shortwave news reports were broadcast by the Voice of Vietnam in eleven languages (Cambodian, Chinese-- both Mandarin and Cantonese, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Lao, Russian, Spanish, and Thai) as well as Vietnamese. The broadcast sites for these programs included five in Hanoi and fifteen in other locations throughout the country. Transmissions reached neighboring Southeast Asian countries and regions as distant as Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Domestic service was provided from fifty-one AM transmission sites, of which five were located in Hanoi, three in Ho Chi Minh City, and the rest in other cities and districts. In addition an FM station was located in Ho Chi Minh City, and an unspecified number of other FM stations were located elsewhere in Vietnam. [Source: Library of Congress, 1980s]

Newspapers in Vietnam

The Viet Nam News is the government’s "national English-language daily." Major Vietnamese-language newspapers and magazines include the state-controlled Tien Phong (The Vanguard), Tin Tuc (News), Lao dong (Labor), Thanh niên (The Young), Tuoi tre (Youth), Hanoi moi (New Hanoi), Nguoi lao dong (The Workers), The thao & Van hoa (Sports & Culture), Dai doan ket (Solidarity), VNN, and VnMedia. 2006

According to Freedom House: "Almost all print media outlets are owned or controlled by the CPV, government institutions, or the army. Several of these newspapers—including Thanh Niên, Nguo'i Lao Dong, and Tuoi Tre (owned by the Youth Union of the CPV)—have attempted to become financially self-sustaining. Along with the popular online news site VietnamNet, they also have a fair degree of editorial independence, though ultimately they are still subject to the CPV’s supervision. [Source: Freedom House |:|]

Even though newspapers print stories on corruption and scandals, the print media is tightly controlled by the government. But because there are hundreds of newspapers and magazines, and because competition is so stiff the edgier publications run stories about scandals and sensational crimes that anger the government.

In Hanoi, newspapers sellers used read the day’s headlines through amplifiers on bicycles.. In the late 1980s, there were approximately 350 national or local newspapers, magazines, journals, news bulletins, and newsletters published in Vietnam. Some local newspapers were published in the languages of tribal minorities and one, in Ho Chi Minh City, was published in Chinese. In addition, there were a small number of publications intended for distribution outside Vietnam. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987]

The national press included publications intended for the general public (e.g. Tap Chi Cong San, Communist Review) as well as those aimed at specific audiences, such as women (Phu Nu Vietnam, Vietnamese Women) or trade union members (Tap Chi Cong Doan, Trade Union Review). Separate journals and newspapers covered sports, culture, economics, social sciences, the military, and science and technology. Each of the thirty-six provinces and the three autonomous municipalities, as well as the special zone, published a newspaper and one or more journals dealing with culture, education, and science and technology. Local newspapers covered local events and did not compete with national publications. *

Party control of the press ensured the political correctness of a story and determined in which publication it would appear. Rarely was the same story covered in more than one national newspaper or magazine. Nhan Dan (People's Daily)— the VCP daily— and Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army)— the armed forces daily— were normally limited to national and international stories. Articles on subjects like sports or art appeared in newspapers or journals devoted to those subjects. Nhan Dan, the leading national newspaper and the official organ of the VCP Central Committee, began publication in 1951. By 1987, as a four-page daily reporting domestic and international news, it published the full texts of speeches and articles by party and government leaders and included feature articles on the government, party, culture, and economy. Quan Doi Nhan Dan, published daily except Sunday by PAVN, was also four pages in length and included international and national news, but with an emphasis on military activities and training. *

The principal national magazine was Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Review), a monthly journal. Formerly called Hoc Tap (Studies), its name was changed in January 1977, after the Fourth Party Congress. It was a theoretical and political journal and was considered to be the voice of the VCP. In 1987 its table of contents was published for international dissemination in English, French, Spanish, and Russian. *

Publications intended specifically for foreign audiences in the 1980s were Vietnam Courier, in English and French--a monthly with articles on current events as well as Vietnamese culture and history; Vietnam, in Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Russian, English, French, and Spanish--a monthly with pictorial essays on all aspects of Vietnamese life; Vietnam Foreign Trade, in English; Vietnam Social Sciences, in English, French, and Russian; Vietnam Youth, in English and French; Vietnamese Scientific and Technical Abstracts, in English; Vietnamese Studies, in English and French; Vietnamese Trade Unions, in English, French, and Spanish; Women of Vietnam, in English and French; and Informado El Vjetnamio (Information on Vietnam) in Esperanto. *

The country's wire service, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), was the principal source of domestic and international news for the nation's domestic and international media in 1987. It published, on a daily basis, a twelve-to-sixteen-page English- language compendium, Vietnam News Agency, which provided standard press-service coverage of the day's news events. *

Vietnam Party Chief Warns of Cultural Decline

In 1998, Reuters reported: "The head of the Vietnam Communist Party, Le Kha Phieu, has warned that commercialisation of the media and arts was threatening to undermine revolutionary cultural traditions, local media reported on Friday. In a speech in Hanoi on Thursday to top publishers and other media representatives, Phieu, who is the country's top leader, said the profit motive was causing books, newspapers and magazines to veer away from political issues. "We need to strictly look into the weakness of the press which is the commercialisation which has not been stopped and is actually an increasing trend,'' said Phieu, whose speech was printed in the daily party mouthpiece Nhan Dan (People). "There are signs of moving away from the lines and goals, and of avoiding political issues...or avoidance of fighting on the cultural ideological front,'' he added. [Source: Reuters, October 9, 1998 ]

"Phieu said that publications looking to boost circulation and profit through catering to "a minority of the public'' had caused harm to the nation's cultural traditions. While there is no official state censor in Vietnam, private media ownership is barred and all editors are personally responsible for the contents of their publications. With the end of state subsidies, advertising has become crucial to the survival of most of Vietnam's publications. Even Nhan Dan has bowed to the inevitable, and advertisements run recently included a full page for the "Amazing Thailand'' tourist campaign.

"Efforts to boost circulation have led to a large growth in tabloid-style reporting in newspapers once seen as traditionally conservative. Cong An Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Police) newspaper now peppers its pages with lurid reports of violence and crime, while maintaining dry political stories and party propoganda. An Ninh The Gioi (World Security) -- published by the Police Ministry (the renamed Interior Ministry) -- followed the Clinton sex scandal in graphic detail.

"Phieu stressed the role of the media was to support the Communist Party. "Nowadays to maintain the national identity is to reflect the cause of the party and the entire people to build and defend the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,'' he said. The domestic publishing industry has florished in the 10 years since Hanoi began to free itself of the shackles of its bankrupt old Soviet-style command economy.

"Some newspapers, while tightly controlled, have tested the bounds of political leeway and been instrumental in rooting out corruption, albeit generally at lower levels, and social vice. "The press played a role in fighting corruption, bureaucracy, violations of democratic freedoms and the degeneration of some cadres and party members,'' said Phieu.

"But some journalists have gone too far and unwittingly stepped across the invisible line. Nguyen Hoang Linh, former editor of Doanh Nghiep (Enterprise) newspaper has been in detention for around a year after he wrote a series of articles alleging serious fraud in the customs department over two deals to purchase patrol boats. He was expected to stand trial on charges of "abusing democracy'' on September 10, although the hearing has been delayed a second time.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

Last updated May 2014

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