by Khanh Linh
The Thao Van Hoa (Sports and Culture) Newspaper has launched
a writing competition entitled "Your Entry – The Life Around Us" to
create a playground for Vietnamese bloggers to test their writing skills and
share their thoughts and feelings about social issues and everyday life. This is
seen as an acknowledgement of the role of blogging as a means of expression
despite the many controversies surrounding its validity, accuracy, legal status
and inability to be controlled.
While this undeniably powerful medium continues to increase in
popularity around the world, including here in Viet Nam, organisers hope
contests like this will help persuade bloggers to write healthier and more
According to Le Khac Hiep, the head of Viet Nam Communication
Joint Stock Company and a contest juryman, his busy schedule gobbles up most of
his time but he nevertheless joyfully spends hours surfing and reading the
entries of his partners and relatives.
"Apart from expressing the blogger’s daily life in diary
form, many entries show remarkably deep insight into current issues. Others deal
with the nature of humanity and relationships in our society," says Hiep.
A way to connect
24 year old Tran Thanh Van, a resident of Ton Duc Thang, said
she would definitely enter the competition because publishing her own stories,
poems and experiences has become the daily habit in the last two years.
"Many amateur writers spend great efforts to craft their
blogs into real works of art, changing colour schemes and decorating the pages
with lovely images and icons," says Van, adding that "some bloggers
are very talented writers, so holding the competition is ideal for people like
Van is not alone in expressing her innermost thoughts and
feelings to the whole world. Nguyen Viet Linh, an overseas student in England,
also shares her weekly diary with the cyberworld.
"Whenever I feel lonely and homesick, I write a new entry
and receive warm feedback from both friends and strangers. It motivates me to
keep studying, and I know that there’s real love between people in
cyberspace," says Linh.
Apart from being a private website, blogging has developed into
a new kind of journalism that could be called the ‘everyman’s newspaper’,
especially in certain parts of the world where traditional media is controlled
by the government or multinational corporations.
Joseph Ruelle (Joe), a Canadian immigrant familiar to many as
the MC of VTV6 and a writer for Lao Dong (Labour) Newspaper, writes a
blog which is very popular due to his precise observations and humorous use of
"The free style and impartiality of bloggers make blogging
more attractive than more official forms of press and literature," says
Blogging has become so rampant, it’s even been adopted by the
Presidential House. Duong Trung Quoc, the general director of the Association of
Vietnamese Historians and editor-in-chief of Xua Va Nay (Now and Then)
magazine, was the first Vietnamese politician to set up a blog. He is well-known
at home and abroad for his research on national history and culture and believes
that blogging can be a useful tool linking him with those interested in the
activities of National Assembly deputies.
Between virtual and real
Blogging evolved in the mid 90’s from internet bulletin
boards, internet forum threads, and email lists. Ever since the term ‘blog’
was coined in 1999 by Peter Merholz as an abbreviation of ‘web log’, the
blogosphere has grown into one of the most popular alternative to the mainstream
media as a means of communication.
Acording to the Ministry of Information and Communication, there
were an estimated three million bloggers in Viet Nam in 2007, and tens of
thousands of new blogs are set up each day. As one person can write multiple
blogs with multiple purposes, network managers get headaches trying to keep
Considered to be private property, a blog can be used to make
statements about other people and ‘flame wars’ often erupt between bloggers,
sometimes over the most esoteric of details. Worse, blogs are a very effective
tool to run smear campaigns against others.
Mi Van, the young model often found in the pages of numerous
youth magazines, was forced to shut down her online diary for a month due to
disturbing comments on a fake blog. The famous dancer Linh Nga was equally upset
over a false blog which was set up using her identity. And recently, pop singer
Phuong Thanh sued a blogger nicknamed Co Gai Do Lon g for slander; she lost the
case but has lodged an appeal.
Recently, Yahoo managers stopped service to the well-known
blogger OnlyU (who received 2 million page views a day) after sending a warning
letter to the owner due to numerous complaints of offensive material, sexual
content, and the spreading of false information about famous people negatively
affecting their careers and lives.
"I never spoke ill of others. All the entries included
images and witnesses, and unconfirmed rumours were always questioned",
claims OnlyU, adding bitterly, "I don’t think that Yahoo’s terms of
services were violated; the service suppliers shouldn’t have deleted all of my
Tac Ke, another famous blog with the same numbers of page views,
disseminates the same content on multiple sites, both to attract more readers
and to avoid OnlyU’s fate.
But not everyone is obsessed with blogs.
"They must have nothing better to do so they stick their
noses in other people’s affairs. I don’t bother with all that," says
"I often bypass bad blogs and move to more interesting
sites," adds Linh.
Blogs have moved beyond their origins; no longer strictly
personal web logs, many believe it’s time to control their contents. The truth
is however, it’s virtually impossible to control bloggers because they can
remain anonymous, change their identities, or simply create new ones.
As Mai Liem Truc, Ph.D, said in an interview with The Thao
Van Hoa Newspaper, "One should build their own firewall to the dark
side of the blog". — VNS