BANGKOK—Deputy Editor in chief of Vietnam’s Du Lich (Tourism) newspaper was fired from his job on May 12 and had his press card withdrawn for writing articles critical of Chinese influence on Vietnam.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication said Nguyen Trung Dan, 53, had published the ‘sensitive’ articles in the publication’s Lunar New Year issue earlier this year against government directives.
Du Lich, which publishes twice a week, belongs to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
Authorities suspended publication of Du Lich for three months on April 14 and vowed to reshuffle the paper’s management after it published articles related to a dispute with China over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
Dan said the authorities have not told him if their action against him will be permanent.
“I do not know the root of the problem. Officially, they said it was because of two articles, which were ‘Nam Quan Border Gate’ and ‘Thoughts About the Far Islands.’ I’m not sure about the bauxite mining articles,” Dan said.
"Nam Quan Border Gate" addressed China’s unofficial push of Vietnam’s long-held northernmost border further south. "Thoughts About the Far Islands" examined the dispute between China and Vietnam over claims to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
In its Lunar New Year edition earlier this year, the newspaper ran a series of articles supporting anti-China protesters, praising them for their "pure patriotism."
Thousands of demonstrators, mostly university students, gathered in late 2007 near the Chinese diplomatic missions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to protest China's policy toward three archipelagos in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands.
Although Vietnam's communist government opposes China's policy in the Spratlys, it wants to maintain friendly relations with its powerful northern neighbor.
Dan also published articles about the controversial bauxite mines under construction by Chinese firms in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
“What I did was not a big problem. It was my idea,” Dan said.
Dan, who has been a Communist Party member for 15 years, said he has not heard any decision from the government concerning his being disciplined.
After the reunification of Vietnam, Dan worked as a reporter for a local newspaper in the country’s central Quang Nam province. He had held positions with widely-read newspapers Lao Dong (Labor) and Thanh Nien (Young People), before moving to Du Lich.
Censorship in the media
According to Internet World Stats, Vietnam now has more than 20 million Internet users, or about 24 percent of the population, placing Vietnam as the fifth largest market in Asia, behind China, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia.
Vietnamese bloggers are estimated at one million.
Vietnam follows China’s example of Web censorship and reports indicate the two countries exchange censorship technology.
The Vietnamese police censor Web content and monitor e-mail in order to track Internet users sending “subversive” content.
In September, blogger Dieu Cay, also known as Nguyen Van Hai, was jailed for 2-1/2 years on tax evasion charges after he tried to persuade people to protest Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City last summer.
In November, Pham Thanh Nghien, an Internet writer and independent journalist, was arrested and detained without charges. She has not yet been brought to trial.
Journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao was released from prison on Feb. 15 after completing a 30-month jail sentence for circulating Internet material criticizing the government.
New measures were introduced on Jan. 20 to regulate blogging.
Bloggers are now required to provide only personal information and are forbidden from disseminating material banned by Vietnam’s press law. Blog platform hosts are required to regularly provide the government with information about the activities of their clients.
Original reporting by Nam Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Diem Nguyen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes.