Vietnam's news media and journalists in the internet age
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After the Vietnam War, and particularly since 1986, Vietnam has been internationally recognised as one of the few communist countries to successfully implement a socially-oriented market economy. In the internet age, Vietnam has become one of the most active locations in Asia for the use of information technology. This progress, however, has not been enough to improve the international image of the country’s press, which remains stained by heavy censorship and the tight control of the Communist Party of Vietnam. This study investigates the impact of the internet on the Vietnamese news media and journalists, presenting evidence to show that the internet has brought more than economic benefits to Vietnam. Through the thematic analysis of rich natural data, semi-structured interviews and selected cases, the study shows that the virtual community made possible through the internet provides a mirror that reflects Vietnam’s social crises, gives voice to public feeling and tests the limits of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s leadership and authority. After discussing the failures of the economic reforms on mainstream media, the study highlights the internet’s role in transforming the state-owned press and the online social sphere. The study identifies electronic newspapers as the most progressive media sector and links their rise to the rapid growth of the Vietnamese audience, citizen journalists and the expansion of social networks. Drawing on recent case studies the thesis discusses the cracks that the internet has provoked in Vietnam’s propaganda system. This study offers a picture of the current situation of the Vietnamese news media as it struggles to survive, continually pushing unsuccessfully against the boundaries set by the authorities. The analysis also identifies broader social and political contradictions and divisions in Vietnamese society, illustrating the risks and opportunities facing Vietnam’s contemporary news media and propaganda journalists. This study’s findings provide a timely critique of the roles of the Vietnamese authorities and the news media at a time when the internet is on the way to becoming the ‘Fifth Estate’. The study suggests that both the state news media of Vietnam and the Communist Party of Vietnam’s authorities will need to respond to citizens’ demands for change or face the growing power of information networks. In addition, this thesis reminds readers of the vital role the internet can play in Vietnam because the technology provides the most direct way to give Vietnamese citizens the basic values of freedom and democracy despite the control of the authorities.
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