(VNTB)-Journalist Pham Chi Dung talked to Auskar Surbakti (ABC TV 24 Australian world news program The World 28 July 2014) about the suppression of freedom of the press in Vietnam. (please see link and full transcript below)
Ngày 28/7/2014, Đài truyền hình ABC (Chương trình tin tức thế giới The World) của Australia đã phát cuộc phỏng vấn giữa xướng ngôn viên Auskar Surbakti của ABC với nhà báo độc lập Phạm Chí Dũng ở Việt Nam về tình trạng báo giới độc lập tại quốc gia này.
Dưới đây là video và nội dung tiếng Anh của bài phỏng vấn.
Phạm Chí Dũng Ph.D.
Mr Dung, thank you for joining us. First of all, you are the founder and Chairman of the Independent Association of Journalists in Vietnam – why did you set up this organisation?
PHAM CHI DUNG:
If in Vietnam we had freedom of the press, freedom of expression then there would be no need for us to form the Association of independent journalists. But in reality, in Vietnam, despite the fact that there’s more than 800 newspapers, there’s actually no freedom of expression. Everything is under the control of the State. There’s censorship, tight censorship, indirect censorship. There’s no freedom according to international protocols, so as a result we felt we need to form this association, which consists of the all the people who would like to speak independently, who would like to be critical of incorrect policies by the government.
You paint a very bleak picture for journalists in Vietnam. Are journalists in your country in any danger because of these restrictions you talk about?
PHAM CHI DUNG:
It’s not only those who oppose the government. Journalists who have independent views are subject to danger and intimidation, even State-owned media is also subject to this kind of intimidation from the government if they say things or write things that the censorship board doesn’t agree with.
We can see an example of a magazine called The Law and Society. In this State-owned paper there was an article about the police ministry involving some form of corruption, and this paper itself was subject to some kind of intimidation and threat from the government. So you can see that even journalists in state-owned media work in a dangerous environment. In relation to our association, we have to have a Plan B for when someone is locked up or detained, for example, I am the President of the Association. We have a plan if I’m detained, arrested or taken away, someone else will replace me. And then in the next stage if that person who replaces me is also detained then there is another succession plan. We also have a plan if all five of us on the executive board are locked up that there should be someone to continue our work, to speak out and to bring our plight to the nation and the world. May I also mention that preceding us in 2009 there was the Free Journalists club, it wasn’t even an association, it was just a club, founded by Dieu Cay Nguyen van Hai (pronounced Dew Cay), a well known blogger. Also Ms Ta Phong Tan also a well know blogger. They were just part of a club and already they are subject to very severe threats with Dieu Cay serving a 12 year sentence and Ta Phong Tan serving an 8 year sentence.
So as well as journalists in traditional media being arrested, we’re also seeing more recently online bloggers being arrested, can you explain the situation for people online and the dangers they face?
PHAM CHI DUNG:
Statistics from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders recently said there are currently about 35 bloggers locked up including some well known ones such as Mr Pham Viet Dao. Recently there was another well known one who was locked up, Anh Ba Sam. These bloggers expressed their opinions, the truth, but the reaction from the government was very brutal. These bloggers were charged with offences under the criminal code for saying the truth, for criticising the government for not doing a good job. There was very vague wording for the offences, including ‘plotting to subvert or to overturn the government’ and now after being criticised by the international community, the government changed the offences, and a lot of bloggers are now subject to criminal code 258, which means ‘taking advantage of democratic rights to harm the interests of the nation’.
What about the role of social media like facebook, youtube and twitter? Is the government censoring that as well, and are journalists who use social media subject to the same type of treatment?
PHAM CHI DUNG:
Currently there are about 2 million Facebook users in Vietnam. Currently there are about 34 million internet users, roughly a third of the population who have access to the internet. The rate of social media use is increasing remarkably. Since 2013 there has been a strong wave of public opposition, starting with a campaign from 72 intellectuals. They openly wrote a letter demanding a multi party system and democracy. They demanded change from the one party system. All this happened because of the use of the internet, all because people are getting used to using social media as a form of expression. If I can refer to the human rights dialogue organised with Australia at the end of July 2014, this is a amazing remarkable thing to happen in Vietnam. It will invite social media users, bloggers etc.
Without the information from social media, the world would not have been aware of the cases of worker rights advocates Ms Do Thi Minh Hanh, Doan Huy Chuong, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, leading members of the nascent independent union movement in Vietnam being locked up, [Minh Hanh was released early recently, Doan Huy Chuong is serving 7 years’s jail, Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung is serving 9 years’ jail].
I would like to say that without the internet, all these developments wouldn’t be happening, there wouldn’t be a strong voice for opposition, for human rights, and without the internet, Vietnam would have been as closed a society as North Korea.
Finally, what would you like the Vietnamese government to do now? Are there any positive signs that the government is doing anything to make things better for journalists in the country?
PHAM CHI DUNG:
What I would like the Vietnamese government to do is to respect the people’s basic freedom, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom to express ideas, opinions. If I could recall the Universal Periodic Review on human rights organised by the UN in 2009 and 2014, Vietnam has always announced that it respects universal human rights, but just look at the reality. Right now as I talk to you a well known human rights advocate Dr Nguyen Dan Que is under very heavy police surveillance, the police surround his house. There’s also a number of religious leaders who the United Nations Special Envoy would like to visit, but their temples, their churches are being surrounded by the police, so they cannot talk with the UN envoy.
So my suggestion for the Australian government is – ok, Vietnam on one hand says it has respected human rights, but for Australia and the international community I strongly suggest you ask them how they’ve done that in practice, and contrast what they say and what they do and force them to make sure what they do fits in with what they say.
Mr Dung, thank you very much for your time.