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Cablegate: Vietnam Reaction to Irf Report: Inaccurate but Positive

VZCZCXRO2274
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1693 2671026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241026Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6410
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3732
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 001693

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF AND DRL/SEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV KIRF OPRC KPAO VM

SUBJECT: VIETNAM REACTION TO IRF REPORT: INACCURATE BUT POSITIVE

REF: STATE 128772


SUMMARY
-------


1. (SBU) Vietnamese media coverage on the release of the 2007
International Religious Freedom (IRF) report was widespread,
accurate and uniformly more positive than in previous years.
Following a Mission press release alerting journalists to the
report's release, initial stories were straightforward, selectively
highlighting positive areas of the report as well as Ambassador
Hanford's press briefing on the report's release saying that he was
pleased that cooperation with the GVN "led to clear results." In a
September 17 press briefing at the GVN Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA), following publication of a number of positive stories on the
report, MFA spokesman Le Dung summarized the GVN's less positive
official reaction. While some media outlets ran follow-on stories
about the GVN's "objections" to the report's findings, the coverage
illustrated unusual independence on the part of the Vietnamese media
in reaching their own conclusions. End Summary


MFA: "INACCURATE" REPORT RECOGNIZES "POSITIVE" DEVELOPMENTS
--------------------------------------------- ------


2. (U) In a September 17 briefing to the media, MFA spokesman Le
Dung responded to a foreign correspondent's question by
characterizing the DOS' Annual IRF Report as lacking in some
objectivity and accuracy. He stressed that the GVN maintained an
"unswerving policy to respect and ensure citizens' rights to freedom
of worship, religion and non-religion." However, he went on to
summarize positively the GVN's findings: "Although the annual report
prepared by the U.S. Department of State contained some unobjective
findings and inaccurate assessments, it has recognized the real and
positive developments on religion in Vietnam."

3. (U) The MFA official spokesman's remarks were covered on national
television. Interestingly, the report was preceded by coverage of a
meeting involving a major Protestant organization, the General
Confederation of Vietnam United World Mission, which was convening
its first general conference in Vietnam and preparing for national
recognition of its denomination after its official registration by
the GVN.

4. (SBU) Overall, Vietnamese media coverage of the 2007 IRF report
was extensive, accurate and far more positive than it has been in
previous years. The Public Affairs Section sent out a press release
on September 14 to alert media outlets to the report's release, and
then followed up with transcripts of Ambassador Hanford's remarks
and the report itself. Major dailies, as well as online news
outlets and the major television channels carried straightforward
and accurate stories which frequently included excerpts from the IRF
report and quotes from Ambassador Hanford. In particular, a number
of prominent outlets carried stories citing Ambassador Hanford's
comments that he had visited Vietnam five times and was pleased that
cooperation with the GVN "led to clear results."

5. (SBU) Several major outlets carried stories which included MFA
spokesman Le Dung's quotes on the report, but the coverage remained
straightforward, reporting on the MFA response without editorial
comment. None of the news organizations ran the harsh, critical
commentaries that appeared in reaction to previous years' reports.

COMMENT: UNPRECEDENTED POSITIVE REACTION
----------------------------------------


6. (SBU) The MFA comments on "inaccuracy" and lack of objectivity
match comments earlier in the year regarding the annual
Trafficking-In-Persons Report. More interesting is the fact that
Vietnamese media outlets in general got a jump on the official
coverage with more positive stories, and did not allow those
subsequent less positive comments change the upbeat tone of
coverage. Indeed, the decision of editors throughout the country to
run accurate and positive stories on the IRF report without awaiting
official government reaction is unprecedented, and their assertions
of the GVN's commitment to supporting religious freedom are likely
to encourage individuals to assert their rights of faith.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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