Sunday, 7 April 2013

Media Monitoring the Vietnamese Way

It's interesting to see how media control in China and Vietnam are similar and yet different as well.

While China bans people from logging on to social media like Facebook and Twitter, I had no problems doing that in Vietnam.

China seems to be inching to greater press freedom depending on the issue -- however in Vietnam, journalists are pretty much free to write whatever they want -- as long as they don't criticize the government.

This is an unspoken, but understood rule that can never be defied.

A local told us about a friend of his, a journalist who could not stand what he felt was a repressive environment and so he immigrated to Australia.

From there he set up a publication that began denouncing the Vietnamese Communist government from overseas.

When he became a naturalized Australian he had to give up his Vietnamese citizenship and so he applied for a visa to visit his family back home.

But when he went to the Vietnamese embassy, they warned him that while they could issue him a visa, once he landed in Vietnam, he could be shot.

He didn't dare return and has since moved to the United States...

Like China, Vietnam likes to censor things the old fashioned way.

For example the tit-for-tat over the disputed islands in the South China Sea are called Paracel or Xisha Islands, and China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim ownership of them.

And if there are any reports that are not correct in the government's eyes are promptly examined and then cut out with scissors or ripped out.

A recently opened hotel in Vietnam had 2,000 brochures printed, and officials actually opened the boxes and examined each one to make sure they were all correct. If not a black marker would have been used.

When I was at Danang Airport this morning, I was on Gmail chat with a friend in Hong Kong. We didn't say anything contentious, but after a while, on his side, there was a message saying, "This chat is no longer off the record", which freaked him out and insisted we log off right away.

The funny thing is, I never received any notice, but he did.

It was pretty obvious we were being monitored... so perhaps it's a good thing they haven't figured out a more stealthy way of doing it like the Chinese...


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