HANOI (Reuters) – Aid donors urged Vietnam on Thursday to unleash the press to help fight corruption and to respect international human rights norms, or risk negatively impacting investment and aid flows.
“Vietnam’s economic performance and its international reputation are compromised by restrictions placed by the government on the personal freedoms of its citizens,” a statement by the U.S. delegation to an annual donor summit in Hanoi said.
Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party brooks no opposition, and in the past year has detained or jailed several reporters, bloggers, lawyers and dissidents, and deployed an administrative decree to bring down the country’s only independent policy think-tank.
The party recognises widespread corruption as a major impediment to development, but restricts the media’s ability to ferret out cases.
The United Nations said governments must “own” the battle against corruption, but others would make it more effective.
“Broadening the scope for collaboration and involvement of non-State actors such as the media, mass organisations and individuals makes anti-corruption efforts more effective,” it said in its report to the meeting, called the Consultative Group.
Sweden, as president of the European Union, went further.
“The government of Vietnam has to allow media to scrutinise the power,” it said.
“Researchers, journalists and lawyers have to be encouraged to raise their voices to be able to contribute to the future of Vietnam. They should not be silenced or discouraged. Recently, however, worrying signs seem to indicate that the development is going in the wrong direction.” U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak also noted in prepared remarks that recent events “have contributed to a shrinking of the space for honest, reliable information”.
“Access to reliable, objective information; the ability to conduct research freely and publish one’s findings; the right to articulate and consider differing views — are absolutely essential to technical innovation and economic prosperity.”
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)