Page last updated at 04:56 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Two Vietnamese editors sacked

Nguyen Cong Khe, former editor of Thanh Nien newspaper
Nguyen Cong Khe: "Tearful" farewell party

The authorities in Vietnam have sacked the editors of the country's two largest pro-reform newspapers.

Nguyen Cong Khe and Le Hoang were ousted months after two of their journalists went on trial over coverage of a government corruption scandal.

Correspondents say the two papers concerned - Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre -have taken a leading role in exposing allegations of official corruption.

Vietnam has recently toughened reporting restrictions.


According to Giang Nguyen, from the BBC's Vietnamese Service, the loss of the two editors was a shock in the final hours of 2008.

The farewell party to Nguyen Cong Khe at Thanh Nien newspaper was described by an insider as "tearful".

Tuoi Tre's boss Le Hoang was reported to have agreed with his redeployment to a new job in the publishing business.

Nguyen Viet Chien and Nguyen Van Hai, reporters for the two papers, had been picked to stand trial in October for vigorous reporting of a major corruption case.

Our correspondent says they appeared to fall victim of a new policy pursued by the Communist Party to tighten control over the flow of news and information, both in the state-run media and the private blogosphere.

But moves by the ruling party to put more restrictions on the media has not stopped with these southern newspapers, our correspondent says.

Vietnamese media reports confirm that two other newspapers, Legality and Saigon Business People, also lost their editors-in-chief in December 2008.

Just two months earlier, Mr Ly Tien Dzung, a veteran journalist and the editor of Dai Doan Ket paper, was 'disciplined' and sacked for publishing a letter criticising the current leadership's handling of a public construction project.

Internet dilemma

Man reading paper Oct 08
Newspapers and the internet are read avidly in Vietnam
The government has recently spoken of the need to build new legal frameworks for the media.

"Every country has its own law, and all activities must follow its laws in order to guarantee the social benefits," Luu Vu Hai, chief of the Administration Agency for Radio, Television and Electronics Information, said in October.

A new law in 2009 explicitly bans bloggers from discussing politically sensitive subjects and demands that all journalists reveal their sources of information.

Those who dare to break these rules set by the party will face up to $12,000 (8,000) in fines or 12 years in jail.

At the same time, the government officially encourages internet use in an attempt to make use of information technologies to modernise the Vietnamese economy and improve business efficiency.

Media watchdog and human rights organisations have raised concerns about restrictions imposed upon both newspapers and blogs.

International donors such as the European Union and the Asian Development Bank have also urged Vietnam to accept a more active role of media in fighting corruption and getting citizens involved in public affairs.

However, with Vietnam's economy slowing - with imported energy and food costs pushed up and inflation soaring to more than 20% in the last quarter of 2008 - more social dissenters could want to make their voices heard in the coming months.

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