Successive Vietnamese constitutions have strengthened freedom of speech, allowing the press to fulfill its watchdog functions, says Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Hong Vinh, Chairman of the Central Council for Theory and Criticism of Literature and Arts.
HA NOI (VNS) — Freedom of speech and press is a fundamental human right that people all over the world should enjoy; it is also a spiritual need for nations as they develop in the information era.
Every Constitution that Viet Nam has adopted in its history have contained stipulations on freedom of speech and affirmed it of the most fundamental rights of human beings and all citizens.
It can be seen that each Constitution has dealt with this fundamental right in ways that suit specific contemporary conditions in the country while staying true to its basics.
This has seen the Vietnamese press grown rapidly, both in the prolificacy and variety of publications, the number of reporters and readers, technical advancements and increasing financial strength, exerting ever greater impacts on society.
Most ministries, agencies and organisations from the central to grassroots levels, social classes, professional associations and major religious institutions have their own publications in the country.
As of February 2013, the country had a total of 812 news organisations, 1,084 other publications, and 67 central and local radio and television stations with 172 channels.
Of late, the pay TV system has taken big strides with a variety of transmission facilities including cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and most recently, internet protocol television (IPTV), which is presently in its pilot phase.
As befits the digital age, the country has 74 online newspapers and magazines, 336 social networks and 1,174 information websites.
The Viet Nam Journalists Association has more than 19,000 members, of whom nearly 17,000 have been granted professional licences and are working in hundreds of press agencies from central to grassroots levels.
The association has always encouraged and created favourable conditions for journalists to work freely and creatively in accordance with the nation's laws.
The press has served as an effective voice of the Party, State, political, social and professional organisations; it has also been an important forum and tool to protect the interests and rights of people from all walks of life.
Every citizen has the right to express his/her aspirations, opinions and recommendations on all aspects of social life via the mass media including print publications.
Ever since the Communist Party of Viet Nam initiated and launched the nation on its path of doi moi (renovation) and international integration, the State has attached great importance to guaranteeing information freedom and transparency. It has worked to create favourable conditions for mass media operations.
One of the activities that have won domestic and international acclaim over the past two decades is the live broadcast on national TV and radio of question and answer sessions between National Assembly deputies and cabinet members, including the Prime Minister.
To meet the people's demands for greater transparency, the Prime Minister recently issued detailed regulations on the provision of information to the press by ministries, ministerial-level agencies, Government-affiliated agencies and People's Committees of provinces and cities.
The press, fulfilling its role of reflecting and participating in social criticism, has become an increasingly important source of feedback for competent agencies as they implement the guidelines and decisions of the Party as well as policies and laws of the State, making them more relevant to ground realities.
In additional to publicising and celebrating new achievements, outstanding citizens and great deeds, the press has also played an effective role in the fight against corruption, bureaucracy, and social vices, winning the sympathy and support of the people in the process.
Therefore, it can be argued that genuine freedom of expression and press exists in Viet Nam, and journalists are fulfilling their social responsibilities and duties as citizens, making important contributions to the cause of national construction and defence. — VNS