Vietnam orders media to scrub all content about prominent writer’s death

Dang Tien was a member of a literature group accused of opposing the Communist Party.
By RFA Vietnamese
Vietnam orders media to scrub all content about prominent writer’s death Vietnamese literature critic Dang Tien, shown in 2009, died in France this week at age 83.
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Vietnam has ordered media outlets to remove news coverage about the death of literary critic and poet Dang Tien, and not to publish further reports about him because he was a member of a literature organization the government claims is anti-communist, sources in the country told Radio Free Asia.

Dang Tien, best known for his books “Universe of Poetry,” and “Poems, Poetics, Prosody, and Profiles,” died in France at age 83 on April 17. 

After starting his career as a book reviewer while still a college student in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, in 1960, he left Vietnam for Paris in 1966 and taught Vietnamese literature at the University of Paris from 1969 to 2005.

Tien was a member of the Independent Literature Association’s Advocacy Committee, or ILAAC, which was established in 2014 and has 60 members. Members say it is often harassed by authorities, and state media have reported that it is an illegal organization set up by hostile forces to oppose the Communist Party and the Vietnamese government.

This is why the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee's Propaganda and Education Department sent directives to media outlets to remove coverage of Tien’s death from their websites, Hoang Dung, a professor and member of the group told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“[It’s] true. I received the info from a journalist friend of mine and I’ve read the directive,” Hoang Dung, a member of the ILAAC told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

The directive, which Dung forwarded to RFA, was worded as follows:

“In regard to Mr. Dang Tien, who has passed away in France, media organizations are requested not to cover the news (and if they have done so, their stories should be removed immediately) as this person joined an organization against the Party and the Vietnamese government (the Independent Literature Association). Best regards." 

News reports about Tien’s death are no longer accessible on the online editions of the Ho Chi Minh City’s Youth and Women’s Newspapers, but two other state-owned outlets, VnExpress and the Sports & Culture online newspapers, still had online content on the subject as of Friday afternoon.

The Youth (Tuoi Tre) Newspaper is the mouthpiece of the city’s Communist Youth Union, and the Ho Chi Minh City Women’s Newspaper is the mouthpiece of the city’s party committee.

‘Voluntary’ removal

The Young People (Thanh Nien) Newspaper also removed reports on the subject, even though it is not managed by the party committee and is run by the Vietnam Youth Federation.

Dung said the fear of punishment from the government is so prevalent that staff at Young People would have found it safer to take their stories down.

RFA attempted to contact both Youth and Young People for confirmation, but phone calls went unanswered. RFA also contacted the Ho Chi Minh City Women’s Online Newspaper, but a woman who answered the call said she could not provide a response to inquiries over the phone.

Written inquiries to all three outlets received no response.

According to Dung, censorship of news relating to the ILAAC or its members is only a fraction of the government’s efforts to crack down on the organization.

For instance, the Central Party’s Propaganda and Education department in 2018 sent a dispatch officially requesting that the Ministry of Education and Training remove all works by members of the ILAAC from new literature textbooks.

The dispatch is still in effect, and people who are no longer ILAAC members are still blacklisted, Dung said.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster. 


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