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Media monitoring bill raises concerns

Update: February, 07/2015 - 09:31
Media professionals are objecting to the Justice Ministry's proposal to allow ministries or government agencies to impose fines on media organisations publishing inaccurate information. — Photo nld
HA NOI  (VNS)  — Media professionals are objecting to the Justice Ministry's proposal to allow ministries or government agencies to impose fines on media organisations publishing inaccurate information.

Current regulations failed to promote the "watchdog" role of the media, which meant monitoring the work of government agencies and officials, said participants at a conference held on Thursday by the Ha Noi-based Centre for Media in Educating Community (MEC).

Under the proposal, media professionals and publications would face administrative fines between VND10-20 million (US$470-$950) for publishing false statistics or distorting statistics disclosed publicly by government agencies. Publishing and broadcasting inaccurate information related to the market or prices of goods and services that could disrupt the market and cause public confusion would result in fines of VND75-100 million ($3,570-$4,760). Ministries and government agencies have final say on whether media reports on issues related to their respective sectors are accurate, according to the 1999 Amended Press Law and a 2007 Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism regulation about correcting information in media publications.

However, this reversed the role of ministries and government agencies from being watched to becoming the watcher, said journalist Mai Phan Loi from MEC and head of Phap Luat TPHCM (HCM City Law) newspaper.

The head of a party organisation or government agency is responsible for answering media inquiries, according to a 2013 Government decision. However, many of these inquiries do not receive prompt replies from those in charge, participants complained. In addition, public officials who do not provide information to the media are only subjected to a fine of VND200,000-500,000 ($9.5-$24).

Lawyer Tran Vu Hai from Ha Noi said there should be an independent committee to determine whether a media report was inaccurate. Moreover, punishments for officials who provided inaccurate information to the media should be equivalent to punishments for media publications that published inaccurate information.

Participants also suggested that the Ministry of Information and Communications should serve as the only and highest government agency to determine the accuracy of media reports and the level of administrative fines.

In 2014, inspectors from the ministry imposed VND2.5 billion in administrative fines on media outlets, publishing houses and online news websites. — VNS

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