Nguyen Duc Loi, vice president of the Vietnam Journalists Association, spoke to VietNamNet about the issue.
The current law clearly stipulates the functions and duties of newspapers and magazines. How do you assess the compliance of magazines with the regulations in force?
After more than three years of implementing the national press development and management plan, the press agencies have been reorganized in a streamlined and efficient manner. There have been clear changes in terms of structure, way of providing information. There is a clear boundary between newspapers and magazines.
However, there are still many e-journals that tend to “cross the line” deliberately, focusing on content beyond the spheres of exploitation and licensing principles, rather than information and professional news. Therefore, readers often confuse journals with newspapers.
News management agencies have recognized the phenomenon and referred to it as “journaling” of newspapers, which should be prevented and eliminated.
The violations and misleading expressions of some magazines such as “washing the sources” making sensational news to attract more views have been recognized and corrected over the past decades. But the problem has still not been solved at the root. Do you think so?
From 2019 to date, the Ministry of Information and Communication and local information and communication departments have handled 39 cases of newspapers violating regulations, suspended three newspapers and revoked three journalist cards. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, there were 24 complaints about journal articles and news, including one about journalists’ operations.
The figures can partly show the phenomenon of logging news sites and electronic newspapers; the phenomenon of some journals publishing information to “clean up the sources” of news websites, publishing sensational news and articles to attract readers; the phenomenon of copying information from other sources; the phenomenon of “privatization of the press” when certain press agencies “outsource” the production of content to representative offices, groups of reporters or partners.
The phenomena have worsened in recent years.
Over the past two years, Vietnam’s socio-economic development has been severely affected by the pandemic. The era coincided with when some newspapers owned by professional associations had to switch over to operate as journals, which made it more difficult for them to switch over. What do you think of that?
It is true that the process of restructuring the press took place at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic negatively affected all areas of social life, including the press, which posed a double difficulty for newspapers which had to switch to work as journals. Due to the pandemic, revenue from advertisements and distributions has declined significantly.
But that can’t be an excuse for e-journal violations. Many electronic newspapers are looking for new revenue streams by trying to lure viewers with inexpensive sensational news. Some scientific journals investigate readers’ reports, then pressure companies and agencies by sending messages and making calls, harassing and demanding money, forcing them to sign advertising contracts.
One of the most mentioned issues recently is with affiliate business. Magazines are affiliated with newspapers and other socio-economic elements cooperate with news agencies to produce content. What about that?
The phenomena are the manifestation of the commercialization and privatization of the press.
Newspapers and magazines, instead of trying to improve the quality of their operations, their content production capacity and their publishing process, “give a blank check” to businesses and private content producers.
This phenomenon is not really popular (the MIC initially identified more than 30 magazines showing signs of “journalism” this year and a number of news agencies showing signs of “privatization”, mostly owned by associations and certain “research institutes”), but it is very worrying because it distorts the activities of the press and publishing.
The Party and the State repeatedly affirm the consistent view that there is no private press in Vietnam. This means that news agencies, when joining forces with partners, must clarify at what stages and to what extent they cooperate. They should not let partners control technology and content.
State management agencies have sent a clear message that newspapers should be real newspapers, magazines should be real magazines, and news websites should be real news websites. What must be done to achieve this goal?
It is necessary to strengthen the inspection, review and strictly deal with violations of press laws, with emphasis on cases that do not respect the principles and objectives of news agencies and violate ethics professional of journalists;
I agree with the solution proposed by Minister of MIC Nguyen Manh Hung that to manage news agencies successfully, it is necessary to supervise them successfully and quickly build an online supervision system.