Ambassador Calls for Free Speech

Sweden's ambassador to Vietnam calls on authorities to end curbs on free speech.
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Swedish ambassador to Vietnam, Rolf Bergman, Dec. 7, 2009.
Swedish ambassador to Vietnam, Rolf Bergman, Dec. 7, 2009.
Swedish Embassy in Hanoi

BANGKOK—Sweden's ambassador to Vietnam has called on Hanoi to loosen curbs on news media and the Internet, which he said could help eliminate corruption.

"We underline, among other things, that public access to information should now become a reality, and in connection we expressed our concern, as other countries also did at this meeting, about reports that access to Facebook is being restricted. We urge the government to lift all restrictions on the Internet," Swedish Ambassador in Hanoi Rolf Bergman said in an interview.

"We have at all occasions where we have discussed corruption--and that is mainly on the biannual anti-corruption dialogue--mentioned it again and again. Whatever we discuss, we always repeat our conviction that mass media should play an important role when it comes to the fight against corruption," he added.

"Of course Vietnam is regarded as a very successful developing country when it comes to economic growth and development. There is a lot of significant progress made when it comes to delivering development to the poor people of Vietnam," Bergman said.

While Hanoi now says it sees the value in mass media, he said, "we have not seen in the last year, I would say, any progress. So we are a little bit discouraged with what we see. A lot of talking from all concerned parties, but not enough actions in reality."

Donors critical of Restrictions

The opening session of the annual meeting of World Bank and international aid donors held in Hanoi, Dec. 3, 2009.
The opening session of the annual meeting of World Bank and international aid donors held in Hanoi, Dec. 3, 2009. AFP
Western donors including Sweden last week spoke out in favor of free media, saying existing curbs threatened the country's rapid economic progress.

Vietnam provoked international criticism this year by arresting bloggers and a prominent human rights lawyer.

"Economic growth and development requires an open and transparent environment for all stakeholders, Vietnamese and international," U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak told the opening session of talks between Vietnam and its aid-givers, known as the Consultative Group.

There has been a "shrinking of the space for honest, reliable information" recently, Michalak told the two-day meeting where pledges of aid are announced.

An Internet provider said last month that Vietnam's public security ministry had ordered blockage of the site which, like other online platforms, offers room for expression not permitted in traditional media which are all linked to the communist state.

The Minister of Information and Communication, Le Doan Hop, last month indicated to legislators that he wanted to reinforce control of the Internet, saying "toxic and bad-intentioned information" has sometimes circulated in cyberspace.

Original reporting by Mac Lam for RFA's Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Khanh Nguyen. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Comments (6)

Anonymous Reader

It is very encouraging to see that a donor country is concerned about the state of its' recipient. It would really be something to see that the recipient country acts upon its' recommendations.

Dec 14, 2009 09:24 PM

Anonymous Reader

This communist state is not transparent at all coming to the term of corruption, human rights, freedom of religious pratice, freedom of expression. They suppressed the rights activists, biased towards the manority of Hmong and Khmer Krom. It's very good to hear the donor countries care about the welfare of the general people to press this ruthless Hanoi regime give more rights to its own people. Recently in An Giang province, the ethnic Khmer Krom people are confronting jail, eviction from their own house for whatever they tried to protect their anscetral lands. Hopefully, Vietnamese Communist must be grateful to the indigeneous people such Hmong and Khmer Krom.

Dec 10, 2009 05:04 AM

Anonymous Reader

Vietnamese very polite and humble people, only some elements not civilized in our society. Especially, those in power are too stupid enough to make our Vietnam bad fame in the world. They always ignite the ethnic division, stamp out those against their ideology. All religions under state police surveillance. No one dare to speak out for more freedom if did, they would face prosecution or put in black jail obviously like the case of unfortunate Khmer Krom people and Hmong, they are confronting bias in Vietnam that carried out by the majority KINH is right.

Dec 09, 2009 10:57 PM

Anonymous Reader

Those country who donate money to the communist party are guilty of helping the dead dog to get rich and suppress those people who cannot say or do anything. Tell the communist party leaders to go to hell and not rule the people of Vietnam anymore.

Dec 09, 2009 05:15 PM

Anonymous Reader

The Donor Countries must press this ruthless communist Hanoi regime to respect Human Rights and stop plundering the land of Hmong and Khmer Krom people. They illegally evict Hmong and Khmer Krom people from their anscetral soil so as to give the Kinh, the majority of Vietnam. Also Hanoi regime must give more freedom on religious practice and belief. We Hmong and Khmer Krom people living like the second-class citizens. Everything, the Vietnamese oppressing us, please United States and developed Countries help us.

Dec 09, 2009 03:12 AM

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