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Thayer Vietnam: Censorship of the Internet

Thayer Vietnam: Censorship of the Internet

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An assessment of whether or not censorship in Vietnam is cyclical, the influence of the commercial publishing industry, and the degree to which the US can influence internet censorship in Vietnam.
An assessment of whether or not censorship in Vietnam is cyclical, the influence of the commercial publishing industry, and the degree to which the US can influence internet censorship in Vietnam.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Jul 25, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Background Briefing:Vietnam: Censorship of theInternetCarlyle A. ThayerJuly 15, 2012
[client name deleted]We would like your assessment of censorship in Vietnam.Q1. Firstly, reportedly there wassomething of a loosening of restrictions in the mid-80s to early90s. Authors such as Duong ThuHuong started to speak out. However,this was later quashed. Do you thinkcensorship is cyclical in Vietnam? In2006 there seemed to be a looseningalso, promptly followed in 2007/08with a tightening of restrictions(PMU18 etc).ANSWER: There was a generalrelaxation from 1986, when
doi moi 
 was introduced, to 1989, whensocialism collapsed in Eastern Europe.As time passed Vietnamese learnedhow to evade censorship to a limitedextent. One writer who was banned inHanoi, for example, won a prize in oneof the provinces for his short stories.There was a relaxation in 2006because Vietnam was hosting theAPEC Summit and did not want anydisruptions. Bloc 8406 rained on
Hanoi’s parade.
 Q2. It seems as though despitenewspapers becoming more tabloid instyle and pop star-obsessed a numbersingers/models/others face 'fines' andrestrictions for skimpy outfits andother things "not suitable withtraditional culture". There's a longhistory of this, even sanctions ontrousers. Have you noticed itbecoming more pronounced of late?ANSWER: Not really. In the past therewas a campaign against negativephenomena that was carried out inthe urban areas. But is was short-lived.Q3. Conversely the blogger who wrotethe history of blogging which wasposted on VOH [Vietnam Old Hacks]stated that she believes thegovernment actually gets celebrities to"do something stupid" around thetime of sensitive events as a way of distracting attention from them. Is thissomething any of your sources haveever mentioned to you?ANSWER: No.Q4. Do you credit any weight to thevast and still growing commercialpublishing industry, especially of overseas mastheads (Cosmo, Elle, OK!)etc?ANSWER: I give the commercialpublishing industry credit for becomepopular among the young. But I amnot sure what this has to do withcensorship. It is a kind of opium forthe masses. It then attracts the wrathof ultra conservatives who see this asan assault on Vietnamese identity andculture.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Q5. The draft decree on the internetwas supposed to come into effect lastmonth yet all has gone quiet. Do youknow when if it will and why it hasbeen delayed?ANSWER: I suspect it may have beenkept under wraps because of 
Secretary Clinton’s visit to Vietnam.
She made a point of urging free use of the internet in Mongolia.Q6. To Huy Rua has been credited withmuch of the recent tightening up of censorship issues, though someWikileaks cables believe he cannot domuch without approval from peoplelike Truong Tan Sang (this cable was acouple of years old). Do you believethat Rua is responsible or also justworking for a higher power?ANSWER: To Huy Rua was the keymover and shaker in clamping controlson the internet before the last partycongress. He has now taken charge of party organisational affairs. I wouldlook to the Minister of Informationand Culture as well as the head of theparty Secretariat, Le Hong Anh, theformer minister of public security, askey actors in censorship policy.Q7. How much real influence does theUS have to sway policy on internetcensorship in Vietnam?ANSWER: The U.S. has influence to theextent that the Vietnamese reallywant something from the UnitedStates. Vietnam wants its president tobe received at the White House, theywant a strategic partnership with theU.S., and they want the U.S. to liftrestrictions on arms sales. U.S. officialshave made it clear none of this willhappen unless human rights (includinginternet freedom) is improved.Despite U.S. pressures things havegotten worse. There are some inVietnam sensitive to U.S. pressures onthis. See the background briefing bySenior Administration One (KurtCampbell) while he was in Hanoi. Heprovides a brief insight into the splitsin the Vietnamese leadership. Heargued that all grouping want to getalong with the U.S.Q8. Lastly, commercial interests havebecome stronger in the press andpublic relations campaigns or similarare sometimes waged. But do youthink greater commercial power in thepress and other sources of revenuemay help ease censorship?ANSWER: No. Money is made fromcommercializing and selling a productnot promoting a political agenda.Political commentary is repressed.There is some censorship undertakenin the name of Vietnamese identityand culture. Commercial publishinghouses know what buttons to pressand no doubt let funds flow toinfluential party officials.Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer,
Vietnam: Censorship of the Internet
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
,July 15, 2012.

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