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Cablegate: All the News Fit to Be Presented by Your Organization's

VZCZCXRO9369
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1070/01 1590716
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080716Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5580
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3189
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001070

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KCOR KPAO VM

SUBJECT: ALL THE NEWS FIT TO BE PRESENTED BY YOUR ORGANIZATION'S
DESIGNATED SPOKESPERSON

Ref: A) HANOI 1016; B) HANOI 2996; C) HANOI 2705; D) HANOI 2412; E)

HANOI 771

HANOI 00001070 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The GVN recently issued a decree prohibiting all government
and Party employees, except ministers, provincial governors or
appointed spokespeople, from speaking to the media. The GVN's
reported intent in passing the decree is to decrease "controversy"
and prevent "conflicting information" from coming out of different
GVN ministries. However, journalists from State-run press outlets
lament that government-appointed spokespersons may be "overloaded"
with requests for information or "not expert" in their fields. A
respected journalist wrote that the decree presents "obstacles" for
reporters in trying to inform the public. We see the decree as
fitting a larger GVN pattern -- since last year's Party Congress --
to reign in the press and ensure that only the "right news" sees the
light of day. End Summary.

The Decree's Nuts and Bolts
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Vietnamese Prime Minister (PM) Nguyen Tan Dzung recently
signed a decree prohibiting all civil servants, except ministers,
provincial governors or appointed spokespeople, from speaking to the
media. The decree codifies several procedures journalists must go
through before being granted an interview, but it does not specify
punishments for those officials who provide information without
permission. The decree also requires ministries, government
agencies and provincial and city people's committees to update
information on their websites at least once every three months or
hold a press conference once every six months.

A Mixed Review
--------------

3. (SBU) On June 7, a Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI)
Press Management Officer told us that the GVN had decided "a long
time ago" to issue this decree, but that the "slow and plodding GVN
bureaucracy" had not finalized language until recently. The
rationale behind it is to decrease "controversy" and prevent
"conflicting information" from coming out of the different GVN
ministries, she said.

4. (SBU) The decree will improve journalists' access to information
by making it clearer where they can get it, she continued. The GVN
is merely making sure certain individuals are assigned the task of
speaking for their department or Party organization. It is not
unlike foreign government departments that have individuals acting
as department spokespersons, she offered.

5. (SBU) However, reporters from State-controlled Vietnam Television
Network and the Voice of Vietnam bemoaned the decree's passing.
They told us that department-appointed spokespersons may be
"overloaded" with requests or "not expert" in their respective
fields. Moreover, the new procedures will be time-consuming, but
the media business demands that they get information immediately,
they added. They asserted that the GVN has made the task of getting
good information more complicated.

6. (SBU) Respected journalist Binh Chau lamented in a June 4
commentary in the "Vietnam Investment Review" that Article Two of
the decree states that only authorized officers can supply
information to the media and that these officers are not allowed to
reveal "secrets or secret information about ongoing investigations."
The decree presents "obstacles" for journalists trying to carry out
their job of informing the public, she wrote.

7. (SBU) A senior officer in the Vietnam Journalists Association
(VJA), however, told us that it is too early to judge the decree's
impact. If it becomes clear that it has prevented journalists from
getting timely information, the VJA will notify PM Dzung and other
relevant GVN leaders of the VJA's views, he said.

In Keeping With Past Practice
-----------------------------

8. (SBU) Third-country embassy officials have publicly criticized
the decree, saying it runs counter to GVN promises of promoting
transparency and accountability. On June 6, the Swedish Ambassador
said that the decree undermines the training Sweden has given to
Vietnamese journalists over the past several years. The Swedish
Embassy's Political and Trade Counselor later offered her view to
Poloff that the decree is in keeping with GVN steps over the past
year to deter the press from printing certain information.


HANOI 00001070 002.2 OF 002


Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Over the past year, the GVN has lauded the media's work in
uncovering official corruption. However, there can be too much of a
good thing, and the public outcry in response to the PMU-18 scandal
(reftels) -- fanned by the media -- caught the GVN by surprise.
Since taking office after last year's Party Congress, GVN and Party
leaders have sought to ensure -- through this decree and other
"press guidance" -- that only the "right news" comes out at the
right time. End Comment.

MARINE

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