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Writer released, WAN protests new Vietnam press law

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a WAN press release:

**Updates IFEX alerts of 14 April, 17 March, 16 March, 12 March and 11 March

Paris, 25 May 1999
For immediate release

World Newspaper Group Protests New Vietnam Press Law

The World Association of Newspapers has welcomed Vietnam's release of
dissident writer and scientist Nguyen Thanh Giang, but has protested a new
press law that tightens state control of the media, including the Internet.

"We are happy to hear that Mr Giang has been released from prison, where he
had been sent merely for peacefully advocating free expression of opinion in
Vietnam," said Timothy Balding, Director General of WAN. "But despite the
release, there are worrying signs that the government is tightening its grip
on the media."

Vietnam's National Assembly has recently passed a new press law that gives
the Ministry of Culture and Information sole responsibility for all media
outlets, including the Internet. A provision reportedly requires
compensation to be paid to anyone hurt by a report, even if it was accurate.
The government controls all of Vietnam's publications, as well as radio and
television broadcasts.

"By tightening its already tight control over the media, Vietnam is moving
in the opposite direction of countries which recognize that establishing
free media is a good investment for political, economic and social
stability," said Mr Balding. "Apart from violating international
conventions, restricting the free flow of information carries great risks.
Countries that are seeking international investment, a greater international
profile and better living conditions for their people must take this into

Vietnam released Mr Giang earlier this month following a campaign by
governments and international organizations, including WAN. Mr Giang, a
distinguished writer and geologist who has written several articles critical
of the Communist Party, had been arrested on 4 March for possessing
"anti-socialist propaganda."

"His release allows us to draw one conclusion: international pressure plays
a primary role for re-establishing human rights in Vietnam," Nguyen Ngoc
Duc, Secretary General of the Paris-based Free Vietnam Alliance, told WAN.
"His freedom is due to the combined efforts of numerous humanitarian
organizations and individuals who forced the Communist government of Vietnam
to back down."

His freedom, however, is not complete. He is reported to be under the
surveillance of police, he is not allowed to communicate with anyone except
his family, and he cannot leave his home without permission.

"His release, though welcome, does not solve the underlying problem of
freedom of expression in Vietnam," said Mr Balding.

The Paris-based WAN, the global association of the newspaper industry,
defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 15,000
newspapers; its membership includes 58 national newspaper publisher
associations, individual newspaper executives in 90 countries, 17 news
agencies and seven regional press groups.

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