HANOI (AFP) – The website of an outspoken Vietnamese newspaper has had its licence revoked after publishing articles which “abuse freedom and democratic rights,” authorities said Monday, as part of a growing crackdown on press freedom in the communist country.
The newspaper, Nguoi Cao Tuoi – which means “Elderly” in Vietnamese – must take down its website and fire its editor-in-chief, the Ministry of Information and Communications said in an online statement.
The licence for the newspaper’s website and the press card of editor-in-chief Kim Quoc Hoa have been revoked, the statement added.
The website nguoicaotuoi.org.vn had been taken offline by Monday afternoon. The print edition of the paper will apparently still be allowed to publish.
All newspapers and television channels in authoritarian Vietnam are controlled by the state, but individual publications can decide how far to push – or not – against the country’s draconian censorship laws.
The Nguoi Cao Tuoi newspaper was run by the communist party-linked Elderly Association of Vietnam and targeted older readers.
In recent years, the publication had become a strident critic of government graft, breaking several key stories that implicated senior officials in corruption scandals.
Other state-run papers had followed up on corruption scandals broken by the Nguoi Cao Tuoi.
The publication ran articles that showed “signs of revealing state secrets,” the Ministry of Information and Communications said in the statement, explaining their decision.
The ministry did not specify exactly which stories it objected to but said a file had been sent to the police requesting a probe into 11 articles which could have broken the law.
Vietnam’s Communist Party, which has run the unified country since 1975, is sensitive to any public criticism of its rule.
The majority of state-run papers serve up a diet of bland non-controversial stories, and many citizens prefer to get their news online from blogs or social media, which contain less propaganda.
The one-party state is regularly denounced by rights groups and Western governments for its hardline stance on any issues concerning press freedom or human rights.