Freedom of speech and press has always been a global issue, which is not only a concern of every nation’s leaders but also a fundamental requirement of human rights.

The freedom is also a spiritual need during the existence and development of each nation in an era of information.

According to Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hong Vinh, Chairman of the Central Council for Theory and Criticism of Literature and Arts, all the Constitutions of Vietnam have contained stipulations on the freedom of speech and press and affirmed this as one of the most fundamental rights of human beings and all citizens.

He added that each constitution stipulates this issue on the basis of the previous version while further developing the content to suit the specific conditions of the country in that period.

Over the past time, the Vietnamese press has grown rapidly in terms of quantity, types, publications, the number of reporters and readers, technical and physical facilities, technology and financial capacity, thus making an increasingly stronger impact on society.

Most ministries, branches, agencies and organisations from the central to grassroots levels, social classes, professional associations and major religions have their own newspapers.

According to Vinh, as of February 2013, the country had a total of 812 printed newspapers with 1,084 publications, and 67 central and local radio and television stations with 172 channels.

The pay TV system has made big strides with a variety of transmission possibilities such as cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and most recently, internet protocol television (IPTV), which is presently being piloted.

Regarding electronic information, the country has 74 online newspapers and magazines, 336 social networks and 1,174 information websites.

The Vietnam Journalists Association has more than 19,000 members, of whom nearly 17,000 have been granted professional licences and are working in hundreds of press agencies from central to grassroots levels. The association has always encouraged and created favourable conditions for journalists to work freely and creatively in accordance with the law.

Dr. Vinh remarked that the press has truly served as the voice of the Party, State, political, social and professional organisations, as well as an important forum and tool to protect the interests and rights of people from all walks of life.

Everyone has the right to express their aspirations, opinions and recommendations on all aspects of social life via the mass media, including the press.

He affirmed that since the Communist Party of Vietnam initiated and led the renewal cause and international integration, the State has attached importance to information freedom, publicity and transparency and created favourable conditions for the operation of the mass media.

One of the activities that have won domestic and international acclaim over the past two decades is the live broadcast on national TV and radio of question and answer sessions between National Assembly deputies and cabinet members, including the Prime Minister.

To meet the people’s demands for greater information publicity and transparency, the Prime Minister has recently issued detailed regulations on the provision of information to the press by ministries, ministerial-level agencies, Government-affiliated agencies and People’s Committees of centrally-run provinces or cities.

The researcher noted that the press, playing the role of reflecting and participating in social criticism, has become an increasingly important source of consultation for competent agencies in perfecting guidelines and decisions of the Party as well as policies and laws of the State, making them more relevant to realities.

In additional to publicising and celebrating new achievements, good people and good deeds, the press has also played an effective role in the fight against corruption, bureaucracy, social vices, thus winning the sympathy and support of the people.

He concluded that reality has shown that genuine freedom of expression and press exist in Vietnam, on the basis of journalists’ strict compliance with the law while upholding their social responsibilities and duties as citizens to contribute to national construction and defence.-VNA