Although an official description of the press, offered by the Sixth National Party Congress, defines the media's role as being "the voice of the party and of the masses," and identifies its task as being to "propagate the party's lines and policies," as well as to report and analyze the news, the Vietnamese press is much more a medium for educating the public and filtering information, than for reporting news. It is controlled by the VCP Central Committee's Propaganda and Training Department in accordance with guidelines established by the Ministry of Culture, and both agencies act to ensure that it reflects the policies and positions of the party. In mid-1987, however, there emerged increasing evidence within the media that a movement might be underway to change the character of the press. Articles stressing the importance of investigative reporting, calling for more journalistic freedom to report accurately, and defending the right of the people to be heard, appeared in many of the leading newspapers. The movement appeared to be led by a small but influential group of journalists seeking to make the press more assertive by emphasizing accurate reporting and a more balanced reflection of public opinion.
In the late 1980s, there were approximately 350 national or local newspapers, magazines, journals, news bulletins, and newsletters published in Vietnam. Some local newspapers were published in the languages of tribal minorities and one, in Ho Chi Minh City, was published in Chinese. In addition, there were a small number of publications intended for distribution outside Vietnam.
The national press included publications intended for the general public (e.g. Tap Chi Cong San, Communist Review) as well as those aimed at specific audiences, such as women (Phu Nu Vietnam, Vietnamese Women) or trade union members (Tap Chi Cong Doan, Trade Union Review). Separate journals and newspapers covered sports, culture, economics, social sciences, the military, and science and technology. Each of the thirty-six provinces and the three autonomous municipalities, as well as the special zone, published a newspaper and one or more journals dealing with culture, education, and science and technology. Local newspapers covered local events and did not compete with national publications.
Party control of the press ensured the political correctness of a story and determined in which publication it would appear. Rarely was the same story covered in more than one national newspaper or magazine. Nhan Dan (People's Daily)--the VCP daily--and Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army)--the armed forces daily--were normally limited to national and international stories. Articles on subjects like sports or art appeared in newspapers or journals devoted to those subjects. Nhan Dan, the leading national newspaper and the official organ of the VCP Central Committee, began publication in 1951. By 1987, as a four-page daily reporting domestic and international news, it published the full texts of speeches and articles by party and government leaders and included feature articles on the government, party, culture, and economy. Quan Doi Nhan Dan, published daily except Sunday by PAVN, was also four pages in length and included international and national news, but with an emphasis on military activities and training.
The principal national magazine was Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Review), a monthly journal. Formerly called Hoc Tap (Studies), its name was changed in January 1977, after the Fourth Party Congress. It was a theoretical and political journal and was considered to be the voice of the VCP. In 1987 its table of contents was published for international dissemination in English, French, Spanish, and Russian.
Publications intended specifically for foreign audiences in the 1980s were Vietnam Courier, in English and French--a monthly with articles on current events as well as Vietnamese culture and history; Vietnam, in Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Russian, English, French, and Spanish--a monthly with pictorial essays on all aspects of Vietnamese life; Vietnam Foreign Trade, in English; Vietnam Social Sciences, in English, French, and Russian; Vietnam Youth, in English and French; Vietnamese Scientific and Technical Abstracts, in English; Vietnamese Studies, in English and French; Vietnamese Trade Unions, in English, French, and Spanish; Women of Vietnam, in English and French; and Informado El Vjetnamio (Information on Vietnam) in Esperanto.
The country's wire service, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), was the principal source of domestic and international news for the nation's domestic and international media in 1987. It published, on a daily basis, a twelve-to-sixteen-page English- language compendium, Vietnam News Agency, which provided standard press-service coverage of the day's news events.
By 1986 international shortwave news reports were broadcast by the Voice of Vietnam in eleven languages (Cambodian, Chinese-- both Mandarin and Cantonese, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Lao, Russian, Spanish, and Thai) as well as Vietnamese. The broadcast sites for these programs included five in Hanoi and fifteen in other locations throughout the country. Transmissions reached neighboring Southeast Asian countries and regions as distant as Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Domestic service was provided from fifty-one AM transmission sites, of which five were located in Hanoi, three in Ho Chi Minh City, and the rest in other cities and districts. In addition an FM station was located in Ho Chi Minh City, and an unspecified number of other FM stations were located elsewhere in Vietnam.
The Central Television network was created in 1970. By the mid-1980s, five channels were known to broadcast from twenty-one transmission sites in Vietnam. Viewers were served by two channels in Hanoi, one in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Da Nang; Hue, Can Tho, and Qui Nhon were served by another channel. There may have been broadcasts from Nha Trang and Vinh as well. Television Vietnam offered programs in color and in black and white. Black and white daily national programming was broadcast from Hanoi, on Monday through Friday, for ninety minutes a day and, on Saturday and Sunday, for three hours a day.
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