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Cablegate: August Voluntary Visitor Program (Ho Chi Minh City Senior

VZCZCXRO5442
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1079/01 2950642
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 220642Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3257
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2254
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3470

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 001079

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS; EAP/PD (TINA TRAN); ECA/PE/V/F/A (NALINEE
CAIN AND MICHAEL CAIN); DS/IP/EAP AND DS/ICI/CI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC PREL ASEC SCUL VM
SUBJECT: AUGUST VOLUNTARY VISITOR PROGRAM (HO CHI MINH CITY SENIOR
EDITORS) PRODUCES PRO-USG COVERAGE IN AN UNLIKELY PLACE


HO CHI MIN 00001079 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Eight senior editors from Ho Chi Minh City
newspapers, along with a senior official from the Ho Chi Minh
City Journalists Association, recently returned from a highly
successful, albeit rare, opportunity to participate in a USG
exchange program. As Vietnam's largest media center and most
populous city, Ho Chi Minh City plays a key role in the
political and economic development of the country, and it would
appear logical that HCMC-based journalists would be well placed
to qualify for international training and exchange visits.
Nonetheless, bringing this program to fruition was quite
difficult due to ongoing attempts by GVN officials to discourage
media participation in International Visitor or other USG
exchange programs. Considerable effort aimed at building
relationships with media resulted in a breakthrough last summer
when the HCMC Journalists Association proposed a US trip that
was approved by the central and local governments. The impact
of this project is now evident in a series of articles just
published by the Ministry of Public Security newspaper "Cong An"
("Security"). The articles, written by an MPS participant in
the VOLVIS program, are helping to introduce U.S. society,
media, and politics to a popular audience of over one-quarter
million readers. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Nine senior editors from HCMC media outlets were chosen
for this program, an initiative of the HCMC Journalists
Association. The purpose of the VOLVIS was to learn about media
standards and the scope and role of media institutions in the
United States; to gain insights into American social, economic
and political structures; to discuss problems and issues of
common professional concern with American journalist colleagues;
and to gain first-hand knowledge of U.S. society, educational
organizations, and government. The group spent eleven days
visiting newspaper editors, press organizations, and other
offices in Washington, New York, and San Francisco in order to
learn about technical and management aspects of the media
business. The program focused on newsroom management, problems
and issues that journalists face, marketing and advertising, and
the role of journalism in civil society.

3. (U) Washington D.C.: The editors group met with Gene Mater,
International Program Manager, Freedom Forum, to learn about the
role and activities of Freedom Forum. They also visited the
Washington Post, where they engaged in a dialogue about newsroom
operations and problems of the print press in the Internet age.
The group attended a State Department Press Briefing, visited
the Foreign Press Center, and met with representatives of the
National Press Club and International Center for Journalists.
They had an opportunity to engage members of the American
Society of Newspaper Editors in a discussion of training and
speaker opportunities.

4. (U) New York City: The three-day program in NYC included
meetings with counterparts at the Wall Street Journal and New
York Times to discuss management and professional issues, as
well as visits to the Associated Press; the Newspaper of
Association of America (NAA); and the New York Stock exchange.

5. (U) San Francisco: While in HCMC's Sister City, the team
held meetings with professors at the UC Berkeley Graduate School
of Journalism; editors at the Oakland Tribune; George Saxton,
President of the San Francisco-Ho Chi Minh City Sister City
Committee; and officers of the Oakland Police Department.

6. (SBU) Justification/objective: Ho Chi Minh City editors
approached post with a proposal to go the U.S. to see first-hand
how American media outlets operate in the Internet age. They
sought to better understand what U.S. editors are concerned
about today, and how they manage their outlets and marketing
issues. Post was eager to respond to this request, especially
given how difficult it has been to include Vietnamese media in
our usual exchange programs. (Officials generally do not
approve high-level participation by journalists in USG
programs.) According to the editors, insights gained from their
trip will help them improve their paper's newsroom operations,
and introduce ways of dealing with possible challenges.
Importantly, the trip was a great opportunity for senior editors
to learn about the much-vaunted independence of US
newspapers--which Vietnamese newspapers reportedly aspire to
achieve.

7. (U) Result/impact: Excellent. Members of the group were
extremely impressed with the scope and usefulness of the
program. They appreciated the many briefings they received from
media outlets, the UC journalism school, and USG institutions.
Although the program was of short duration, the team gained a
good understanding of press freedom in the United States, as
well as issues facing the news industry. In addition, they

HO CHI MIN 00001079 002.2 OF 002


developed an enthusiastic appreciation for how American
newspapers operate and manage their newsrooms; the multiplicity
of issues with which American newspapers must cope; and how
American journalists are protected by civic norms and court
precedent. According to team leader Nguyen van Phung, the
Voluntary Visitor program helped the team appreciate the role
American news media plays in society. The team had an especially
useful meeting with the American Society of Newspaper Editors
during which both sides discussed future opportunities for
cooperation. According to the team, they quickly came to realize
how many professional interests and concerns they have in common
with U.S. counterparts.


8. (U) During the HCMC Senior Editors' debriefing, members of
the team were generally very positive about the trip but also
suggested that they would like to have had fewer meetings in
order to spend more time with a few senior editors from US
newspapers in order to discuss professional issues in a more
focused and in-depth way.

9. (U) The SGGP group thanked Nalinee Cain, Bill Whelan, and
Emma Madison for organizing an outstanding program. The team
also thanks their interpreters Hai Chu, Le Thu Phan, and escort
Joan Gibbons for all of their helps and support.

10. (U) Following are the participants of the VOLVIS program:

Mr. DANG Tam Chanh Vice Editor-in-Chief, Saigon Tiep Thi (Saigon
Marketing newspaper);

Mr. DANG Xuan Dung Editor-in-Chief, Cong An (police newspaper)
Note: This is the media outlet of the Ministry of Public
Security, which often tries to stop just this kind of exchange
from taking place. Yet, this participant has himself printed
very positive coverage of the trip, including praise for the
VolVis program;

Ms. Thi DO Thi My, Editor-in-Chief, Khan Quang Do (children's
newspaper);

Mr. DOAN Minh Phong, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Phu Nu (women's
newspaper);

Mr. DOAN Khac Xuyen; Managing Editor, Saigon Economic Times
(weekly magazine);

Mr. MAI Ngoc Phuoc Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Phap Luat (law
newspaper);

Mr. NGUYEN Van Phung, Permanent Vice President, Ho Chi Minh City
Journalists' Association;

Ms. THAI Phong Suong, Editor-in-Chief, Ho Chi Minh City's The
Thao (sports daily);

Mr. VO Hong Son, Vice Editor-in-Chief, Saigon Giai Phong
newspaper (Saigon Liberation Daily).

11. (SBU) Comment: Through this rare VolVis opportunity,
prominent and influential editors were exposed to critical
values and aspects of U.S. media. These experiences have
already begun to translate into articles in their various
outlets, which reach a broad Vietnamese readership. The papers
publicizing the VOLVIS have even included, unexpectedly, the
official "police" organ in HCMC. PAS will continue to
aggressively seek opportunities for further exchange with
Vietnamese media.

12. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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