Asia - Pacific
Vietnam
-
Index 2022
174/180
Score : 26.11
Political indicator
173
32.32
Economic indicator
176
18.71
Legislative indicator
172
27.49
Social indicator
170
34.67
Security indicator
170
17.37
Index 2021
175/180
Score : 21.54
N/A
Indicators not available because the calculation method was changed in 2022

Vietnam’s traditional media are closely controlled by the single party. Independent reporters and bloggers are often jailed, making Vietnam the world's third largest jailer of journalists.

Media landscape

Independent bloggers and journalists are the only sources of freely reported news and information in a country where all the media follow orders from the Communist Party, in power since 1975. With 64 million users – the seventh highest number in the world – Facebook is Vietnam’s most popular online platform and serves as a major tool for circulating news and information. The Vietnamese messaging app Zalo is also widely used to share information.

Political context

The one-party state aims to control everything and, to this end, the army has developed Force 47, a unit with 10,000 cyber-soldiers who are tasked with defending the party line and attacking all online dissidents. The 2019 Cybercrime Law requires platforms to store user data on Vietnamese soil and hand it over to the authorities when required.

Legal framework

Freedom of the press is proclaimed in Article 19 of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s constitution. But the political apparatus has a tailor-made legislative arsenal that allows it to imprison any news and information provider who proves troublesome. It includes articles 109, 117, and 331 of the penal code, under which anyone found guilty of “activities aimed at overthrowing the government”, “anti-state propaganda” or “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy” can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Economic context

By law, the state is the majority shareholder of all media outlets. In return, the Communist Party demands that they serve as “the voice of party organisations, state organs and social organisations”. The party’s central propaganda department meets weekly in Hanoi to ensure that nothing objectionable is published in media outlets, and to praise or reprimand editors when appropriate.

Sociocultural context

The many topics subject to censorship include political dissidents, cases of corruption involving senior officials, the single party’s legitimacy, relations with China and, of course, human rights issues. Subjects that are deemed to be less sensitive, such as environmental issues or LGBT rights, are emerging on the margins. The Vietnamese diaspora’s dynamism plays a fundamental role in supporting and relaying the country’s independent voices.

Safety

Terror is being used much more widely against independent journalists as a result of the Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s imposition of a more conservative line since 2016. The apparatus takes care to suppress all journalistic initiatives emanating from civil society, such as the Bao Sach (“Clean Journal”) group and the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN). Pham Doan Trang, who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2019, has been sentenced to nine years in prison. Around 40 journalists are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where mistreatment is widespread.r