First conference looks into defamation law for media

360 360 MDI

]By Hong Phuc – The Saigon Times Daily

HANOI – Journalists, press regulators and experts sat down together in Hanoi on Wednesday for the first time to discuss a defamation law applicable to the media.

The conference on international defamation law in Vietnam aimed at sharing Vietnam-United Kingdom experience in the issue.

“We will show how defamation law as applied in the UK can both protect the reputation of individuals and organizations but also enable the media to report responsibly about matters of significance for the public such as corruption and public wrongdoing,” said Stephen Whittle, former BBC controller of editorial policy and visiting fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.

“We will also ask whether there are any lessons to be learned for Vietnam.”The conference introduced British law concepts of privilege and how media law and regulations can support the test of public interest and responsible journalism.

Vietnamese media has developed rapidly together with the pace of economic growth but libel cases against some media outlets brought to court are on the rise, said Tran Le Thuy, visiting fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.

Thuy, who is also manager of the “UK-Vietnam Libel Law: Sharing the Experience” project, said, “We hope those basic concepts of defamation law help resolve problems the editors are facing, such as providing clearer-cut guidelines for reporting and publishing statements that risk serious damage to the reputation of individuals or organizations.

“We will discuss hot questions from the Vietnamese press, for example, the definition of public interest, the standard processes for checking information on the quality of products, such as food or drugs, a bank’s financial situation or ongoing public inquiries.”

As a newcomer to Vietnam, Peter Connolly, the British Charge D’Affaires, said the Vietnamese press environment was diverse, vibrant and dynamic and that defamation lawsuits show the complexity and maturity of the local media and legal systems.

“I hope this seminar can help you understand how the UK approaches these challenges in practice and that what you hear and discuss will be of value to Vietnam,” said Connolly.

“We hope it will help to answer some questions among editors and press regulators in order to help the Vietnamese media in its development towards international professional standards.”

Hoang Huu Luong, head of the Press Department of the Ministry of Information and Communications, said Vietnam was serious about violations of regulations in the media.

The department last year got 293 complaints, he said, adding 31 cases relating to 26 media outlets had led to pecuniary penalties and press card losses.

According to Luong, Vietnam has 16,000 reporters holding the ministry-issued press cards, and 706 media outlets with 900 publications.

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