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Magazines exceeding their functions need to be eliminated: journalist

Many magazines go beyond their functions and produce content beyond the principles and purposes stated in licenses.

Nguyen Duc Loi, deputy chair 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 would you assess the magazines’ compliance with current regulations?

After more than three years of implementing the national plan on press development and management, press agencies have been reorganized in a streamlined and efficient manner. There have been clear changes in terms of structure, the way of providing information. There is a clear boundary between newspapers and magazines.

However, there are still many e-journals that tend to deliberately ‘cross the line’, focusing on content beyond the spheres of operation and the principles stated in the licenses, rather than focusing on information and professional news. Therefore, readers often mistake the journals for newspapers.

Press management agencies have recognized the phenomenon and called it the ‘newspaperization’ of journals, which needs to be prevented and eliminated.

Violations and misleading expressions of some magazines such as "washing sources" making sensational news to lure more views have been recognized and corrected in the last decades. But the problem still has not been solved to the root. Do you think so?

From 2019 to now, the Ministry of Information and Communications and local information and communications departments handled 39 cases of journals violating regulations, suspended three journals and revoked three journalist cards. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, there were 24 complaints about articles and news of journals, one about the operations of reporters.

The figures can partially show the phenomenon of newspaperization of news websites and e-journals; the phenomenon of some journals publishing news to ‘wash sources’ for news websites, publishing sensational news and articles to lure readers; the phenomenon of copying news from other sources; the phenomenon of ‘press privatization’ when some press agencies ‘outsource’ the content production to representative offices, groups of reporters or partners. 

The phenomena have become more serious in recent years.

In the last two years, Vietnam’s socio-economic development has been seriously hit by the pandemic. The time coincided with the moment when some newspapers belonging to professional associations had to shift to operate as journals, which made it more difficult for them to carry out the shift. What do you think about this?

It is true that the process of press restructuring took place at the time when the Covid-19 pandemic negatively affected all areas of social life, including the press, which put dual difficulties for the newspapers that had to shift to operate as journals. Because of the pandemic, the revenue from ads and distributions decreased considerably.

But this can't be an excuse for e-journals’ violations. Many e-journals seek new sources of revenue by trying to attract viewers with sensational cheap news. Some science journals carry out investigations following readers’ denouncements, and then exert pressure on businesses and agencies by sending messages and making calls, harassing and clamoring for money, forcing them to sign advertisement contracts.

One of the most mentioned issues recently is affiliate activities. Magazines affiliate with newspapers, and other socio-economic elements cooperate with press agencies to produce content. What do say about this?

The phenomena are the manifestation of press commercialization and privatization.

Newspapers and journals, instead of trying to improve the quality of their operations, content production capacity, and publishing process, ‘give a blank check’ to businesses and private content producers.

This phenomenon is not really popular (MIC has initially identified more than 30 magazines with signs of "newspaperization" this year and a number of press agencies showing signs of "privatization", mostly belonging to associations and some ‘research institutes’), but it is really worrying as it distorts press and publishing activities.

The Party and the State many times affirm the consistent viewpoint that there is no private press in Vietnam. This means that press agencies, when affiliating with partners, need to clarify at which stages and to what extent they cooperate. They must not let partners to control technology and content.

State management agencies have sent a clear message that newspapers must be true newspapers, magazines must be true magazines and news websites truly news website. What needs to be done to reach that goal?

It is necessary to strengthen inspection, review and strictly handle violations of the laws on the press, with focus on the cases that do not comply with the principles and purposes of press agencies, and violate the professional ethics of journalists;

I agree with the solution proposed by MIC Minister Nguyen Manh Hung that in order to successfully manage press agencies, it is necessary to successfully supervise them, and quickly build an online supervision system.



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