Tuesday, August 1, 2000
Hanoi intensifies censorship laws
in the name of culture
HUW WATKIN in Hanoi
The Ministry of Culture is set to more than treble the number of activities
deemed "culturally inappropriate". The move raises fears of intensifying
media censorship, deepening intolerance of dissent and the restriction of
increasingly important information on issues such as sex education.
Le Anh Tuyen, director of the ministry's law department, yesterday
confirmed a local newspaper report which said the number of activities
offensive to Vietnamese culture would be increased from the 200 to 750.
"The Ministry of Justice has made an appraisal of the new decree and has
submitted our proposals to the Prime Minister for approval," he said. "The
new law will improve our ability to prosecute offences made by
publications, libraries, booksellers and at public events." Mr Tuyen
confirmed that the proposed law included provisions covering the production
and possession of material which was likely to "incite violence and crime,
international tensions, materials of a sexual nature or those which
distorted Vietnam's history or defamed its national heroes."
He said maximum fines would rise from 50 million dong (HK$27,700) to 70
million dong and fines for possessing a single violent or sexually explicit
video or VCD would double to between 10 million and 30 million dong.
The decree will likely subject state-controlled media to closer scrutiny,
which local journalists said was already biting ahead of next year's Party
"[Party-appointed] editors are becoming much more conservative because they
don't want to draw attention to themselves at a time when personnel changes
are being considered by the leadership," said one. "It's virtually
impossible at the moment to get anything published which is even remotely
controversial and that includes issues like drug abuse and prostitution."
Foreign journalists have also noted that government officials have become
increasingly reluctant to talk in recent months for fear of repercussions
for providing information which portrayed Vietnam in a "poor light". One
foreign diplomatic source commented: "It's as if the party is trying to
assert not just traditional Vietnamese culture, but also communist culture.
I guarantee we will see increased calls for . . . more Marxist education in
schools in the coming months."
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