IFEX – News from the international freedom of expression community

14 September 2004
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

Media ban at People’s Forum “bodes ill” for Asia-Europe meeting in Hanoi, say SEAPA

(SEAPA/IFEX) – SEAPA has condemned government actions that severely limited media coverage of the fifth Asia-Europe People’s Forum, held in Hanoi from 6 to 9 September 2004.

“The ban further taints Hanoi’s already tarnished image with regard to freedom of expression and of the press,” SEAPA said in a statement. At the same time, the organisation expressed concerns that the media ban at the People’s Forum “bodes ill for the scheduled gathering of Asian and European leaders in Hanoi next month.”

The People’s Forum is traditionally held at the same time as the 25-nation Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which takes place every 18 months. The Forum is thus traditionally seen as providing crucial consultation and dialogue involving non-government sectors.

The organiser of the People’s Forum, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, is being held responsible for initially moving to limit participation in the forum from 800 expected delegates to 500. The Union, a quasi-government body, then decided to exclude media organisations and Vietnamese participants from the meeting.

“Even though some of the media were eventually allowed to participate in the event, the concern remains that there was clearly, from the start, every intention by Hanoi to keep the event from getting wider media coverage,” SEAPA said in its statement. The organisation noted that reporters were allowed to join only after they had registered as “participants” and not as

The 2004 People’s Forum touched on the topics of peace and economic and social security as well as democracy and the media.

On 14 September, the Thai English-language daily “The Nation” reported that ASEM organisers struck a compromise with the Vietnamese government to organise the People’s Forum a month ahead of the ASEM Summit, diverging from
the tradition of holding the two events simultaneously. The government was apparently intent on avoiding the demonstrations that usually accompany ASEM gatherings.

SEAPA is urging Asian and European governments whose leaders will be attending the October summit in Hanoi to ensure that their discussions will be transparent and open to press coverage.

‘The summit should be an opportunity for world leaders to remind the host government that Vietnam’s own Doi Moi [economic reform] policy is meaningless without a clear commitment to transparency and a free press,”
SEAPA said. “Without government leaders’ demonstrable respect for human rights and free expression, it would be hard to believe any expression of desire for genuine progress and development coming out of Hanoi.”

For further information, contact Kulachada Chaipipat or Rosario Liquicia at SEAPA, 538/1 Samsen Road, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300 Thailand, tel/fax: +662 2435579, e-mail: seapa@seapabkk.org, Internet: http://www.seapabkk.org

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