Information and communication have been tightly controlled in Laos since the days of French colonialism. During the years of revolutionary struggle against the RLG, the LPRP relied heavily upon radiobroadcasts in the Lao and Hmong languages. Starting in 1960, with technical assistance from North Vietnam, these radiobroadcasts, lasting four hours a day, reached a largely illiterate and mountain-dwelling audience. Press operations, oriented to the towns of the Mekong Valley, were conducted secretly, if at all, by the clandestine Pathet Lao. Radiobroadcasters never mentioned the official name of the party until a few months before the seizure of power in December 1975.
Given such a heritage of party control, it is not surprising that the postrevolutionary operation of the mass media is a tightly controlled party monopoly without private participation. The joint party-government organization of the media is reflected in the Ministry of Information and Culture and the State Board of News Agency, Newspaper, Radio, and Television. The party maintains the more narrowly focused Propaganda and Training Committee whose chairman is also the head of the state board. The overall goal of the press is stated as making the mass media into a link among the party, the state, and the masses.
In mid-1994 the official media consisted of the party-sponsored daily newspaper, Xieng Pasason (The Voice of the People) [Vientiane], in Lao language only. Khaosan Pathet Lao (Lao News Agency), a news service of the Committee of Information, Press, Radio and Television Broadcasting, distributes daily bulletins in Lao, English, and French. The National Radio of Laos, the stateowned radio service, has a national network and seven regional stations that broadcast in Lao and tribal languages. The four government-owned Laotian television stations broadcast daily for a few hours each. Regional stations broadcast in Lao and in tribal languages.
Other media are specialized for particular audiences. For example, the daily Vientiane Mai (Vientiane News), covers local matters of significance to the party. The journal Sangkhom Thoulakit (Society and Business), in Lao, targets readers interested in Vientiane business and society. A theoretical quarterly, Aloun Mai (New Dawn), established in 1985, appeared with some regularity to disseminate major speeches by party leaders, among other official pronouncements. An arts and letters monthly, Vannasin, is surviving, but the print output of various mass organizations such as the People's Revolutionary Youth Union's Noum Lao (Lao Youth), a fortnightly journal, or those of the Federation of Women Union's is only intermittent. Lao Dong (Labor) is the fortnightly journal of the Federation of Trade Unions.
Laotian media output is sporadic and relatively insignificant compared with the impressions made by Thai television, radio, and commercials, and the daily newspapers carried into Vientiane by international travelers. Given the proximity of Thai radio and television, Thailand remains both an open window to a different economic system and provides a perspective on the news. Further, outside information and culture have proven to be too pervasive to be worth eradicating by surveillance or jamming.
So far as publishing is concerned, the Ministry of Information and Culture held a seminar in 1992, which reviewed its activities over the previous sixteen years and worked out a "plan of action" for the coming period with "provisional regulations on publication, printing, and distribution in the Lao PDR." Reinforcement of this type of intellectual planning is achieved through periodic conferences with delegations from the official news agencies of Vietnam and Cambodia, and through visits to China. A delegation of Thai writers was also entertained.
|Country Studies main page | Laos Country Studies main page|