Hanoi Bans media from covering Forum

2 October 2004
Source: Associated Press, Hanoi

Communist Vietnam has banned journalists from covering the fifth Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Hanoi, with organizers saying Monday that there was not enough room to accommodate them.

The announcement drew the ire of journalists who had traveled from various Southeast Asian countries to cover the three-day conference sponsored by the 25-nation Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM.
he conference includes seminars on peace and security, economic and social security, and democratization and people’s rights _ including one workshop titled “media and democracy.”

“If you meet a brick wall, then you’ve got to do something,” said Bunn Nagara, associate editor of The Star in Malaysia, who vowed to write stories saying the Vietnamese had banned him from doing his job.

Nagara and about 10 other journalists were flown in from a number of Southeast Asian countries by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German-based organization promoting political dialogue within Vietnam.

“I’m just worried with the exclusion of journalists, the positive image of Vietnam … is going to turn out negative,” said Mirko Herberg, a representative of the group who voiced his concerns to the Vietnamese organizers during a news conference about the forum, which begins Tuesday.

More than 800 people have registered to attend the forum, including 450 foreigners. The meeting’s organizer, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, said it hoped to limit the number of participants to 500. In order to do so, it opted to exclude media organizations from attending and reduce the number of Vietnamese groups participating, said Do Ba Khoa, a member of the organizing group.

Instead of covering the workshops, daily news briefings will be offered and the names of workshop participants will be provided for follow-up questions, said Ho Anh Dung, another member of the organization.

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