Thứ Tư, ngày 31 tháng 8 năm 2011

Báo chí "lề trái" ở Việt Nam

 Whoever said that newspapers are dying hasn't been to Vietnam lately.
I'm just back from two weeks of training young journalists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and not only print media but the profession in general is thriving.
This may come as news to those who equate a relatively closed political system with a compliant and monotonal press.
But in Vietnam, as in China, another doctrinaire communist state, the move toward a market economy has made rigid censorship impossible. There are just too many businesses and other groups that need the free exchange of information to compete in the global economy. And once the genie was out of the free press bottle, there was no putting it back.
The result has been a surge of small to medium-sized newspapers in Vietnam, many sponsored on paper by provincial governments or state-backed agencies but in practice operating semi-autonomously off ad sales and circulation.

Universities in Vietnam are just starting to professionalize their journalism and communications disciplines, and the graduates are going right to work covering the biggest stories of the day: rampant inflation (14 percent this year), the nearly overwhelming surge in foreign investment, a gold-buying fever that is hotter than in the U.S., rampant official corruption, and a host of other issues that come with a young market economy expanding much too fast for its physical, educational and administrative infrastructure to handle.
The central government has no choice but to move in the same circles as western businesses and diplomats if it hopes to modernize the economy. Ministry officials now hold press conferences and release reports that previously circulated only internally. Those who still retreat into silence only make the new generation of Vietnamese journalists work that much harder to get the information.
I was there as a Western journalist to share tips about gaining access to government sources and documents, decoding financial statements, avoiding financial conflicts of interest, and conducting investigations -- among the many topics we covered in each of the five-day courses.
We also worked on new ways to present and write the stories once the information was in hand. Providing context, multiple points of view, critical analysis, authentic voices, and an honest assessment of the possibility for change and progress are challenges for journalists around the globe. The Vietnamese journalists -- nearly 40 in all -- were uniformly enthusiastic about tackling those challenges head-on.
This was even more impressive the more I learned about their working conditions. They faced not only brick walls at some of the ministries, but editors protective of top party officials and a legal code that could haul them into criminal court if they couldn't provide solid proof for contested official statements. Many earned less than $300 a month, and they raced to interviews and meetings by weaving on their motorbikes through streets that appeared to the untrained eye to be tied up in one continuous traffic jam.
They took the time, however, to give me a tour of both cities, toasted me at several lunches, showered me with gifts and were unfailingly patient and courteous as I struggled to find just the right word for my diligent translator. The courses were organized by a dynamic journalist-turned-professor who has dedicated herself to professionalizing the journalism in her country by tapping her global network of friends and colleagues (I met Dinh Thi Thuy Hang at a conference nearly a decade ago, when she had just begun to reinvigorate the Vietnam Journalists Association).
With that kind of leadership at the top and enthusiasm at its grassroots, a professional, independent brand of Vietnamese journalism is beginning to make its mark. It was personally inspiring to be part of that movement. Contact me for more information if you are interested in getting involved.
Randy Wilson is editor of the Arizona Daily Sun. He can be reached at rwilson@azdailysun.com or 556-2254.

-Báo chí "lề trái" ở Việt Nam Between the Lines: Wave of independent journalism breaking over Vietnam (Arizona Daily Sun 28-8-11)

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