The Media and Policymaking in Vietnam

Luu Van Thang

Picture Courtesy: Reuters

During the Doi Moi period (Renovation period), Vietnamese press agencies have objectively and honestly reflected all aspects of social life, promptly providing information to authorities of the political system and all social classes, catering to the needs of a diverse audience. The media has provided “input materials” for policy makers by regularly and continuously reflecting on social activities, emerging urgent issues, the thoughts and aspirations of all classes. Many policies are formed from the issues raised by the press, public opinion formed in social media and by putting pressure on the competent authorities, which requires a comprehensive resolution, derived from the core of problem. The initiation of innovation policy led by the Communist Party of Vietnam followed a number of sharp articles by brave journalists in the early 1980s. However, besides those positive contributions, the role of the media in participating in policymaking is still limited. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly identify the raised problems and main contradictions to propose a system of solutions to promote the role of the media in this field.

In the process of developing policies, policymaking agencies have collected and processed information from many sources on policy issues, from which plans were, formulated and submitted to the competent authorities so that the policies, can be approved and issued. This is a very important stage, requiring information to be complete, multidimensional, comprehensive and accurate. With a large team of journalists, from many different agencies and professions, the press information is considered an official and reliable channel (because its accuracy has been checked and verified). Furthermore, it is considered and utilized by policy makers.

The prominent role of the media to policy makers is shown in the following points:

  • Press gives fast news with daily and hourly updates (via radio, television, electronic newspaper), which helps policymakers and policy implementation bodies capture the situation, have an overview of issues in the country and the world, and learn about the policy issues that they are researching and implementing, thereby building plans and proposing solutions, timely processing, making an uninterrupted policy process.
  • In the context of increasingly diversified and plentiful information sources today, to serve the work of public policymaking, Party agencies, State agencies and experts must collect and learn information from various sources, of which press information is vital. On officially verified and edited information, the media provide policy makers and practitioners with more and more multidimensional and detailed information about all aspects of the society’s life.
  • As a reflecting tool of the society for both good and negative issues, limitations and weaknesses, the press provides a multidimensional picture to the public, especially pressing problems among the A policy will bring good results, if the current states of the problem, needs and interests of the people, the press provides to the policymakers are carefully researched and honestly and objectively assessed during the planning process. The press often reflects pressing issues, socio-economic hotspots, people’s thoughts and aspirations. These press articles cause social pressure and draw attention of relevant authorities to study and resolve. New policies emerge from such articles. At the same time, during the process of learning and surveying the policies building process, the media regularly follow the issue, report on related events and cases, provide data, the real situation for the competent agencies to refer to, thus reinforcing scientific basis in policymaking.

All State policies are widely consulted from all classes in society, including the press. As the mouthpiece of agencies and organizations, the press reflects the information both from the top-down (policies) and from the bottom-up (opinions of people and experts on the rights and wrongs, impacts and effects on society), especially the monitoring of policy implementation, contributing to preventing the abuse of power to distort policies or to conduct policy corruption.

The reform policies in Vietnam also started from articles reflecting the deadlock on mechanisms, especially bureaucracy, subsidies, transport block and trade ban, rigid planning, dogma, and diminish people’s motivation. Articles on household contracting models in agricultural production, product contracting mechanisms in industry, those reflecting vibrant realities and overcoming poverty are an important information channel that helped the Party to shift the mindset and to initiate the reform. In many cases, a certain issue, which is of the interest of the media forming strong disclosures, creating public opinion and compelling authorities to examine the issue. Once its importance becomes clear, it is raised to a policy issue. Many national decisions are issued, in accordance with the rules of development, and at the same time demonstrating the role of the media as a reliable “bridge” between the Party, the State and the People, creating greater public confidence in public society.

Effectively extracting information from the media is the best way to continue making efforts to bring improvements to the cultural, intellectual and political qualifications of the contingent of policy makers and implementation staff. Press information is both an input material and an abundant and multidimensional source for policy implementation and adjustment. In recent years, the media has an increasing value, contributing more and more to the policy process, helping to make policy planning and implementation highly effective.

Some issues for the media as a participant in policymaking needs to be highlighted. For instance, in the current period of democratic expansion in Vietnam, the process of public policy is open and transparent. Public opinion is increasingly respected and media information is used to the maximum extent in promoting it. Information demand of public policymaking and implementation agencies is increasing, especially from the mainstream press. Getting information from the press becomes an inevitable need of public policy subjects. Subjects of public policy consider press information as the nervous system of the advisory, consulting and executive system. Newspapers provide data for public policymaking, i.e., policy contents are transmitted as messages for a smooth implementation. The press is present and influences all activities and stages of the public policy process. The issues posed to the Vietnamese media in public policymaking are:

           Firstly, the orientation and problem detection, the fighting spirit of the media in participating in policymaking are still inadequate.

       Second, the irrationality and disproportion between positive and negative information, lack of proposed solutions to negative issues.

         Third, political awareness, social responsibility, ethical qualities, and professional capacity of a part of press officials and reporters are not sufficient.

           Fourthly, some press agencies have shown signs of being distant from the leadership of the Party, irresponsible when exploiting and transmitting information; the handling of violations in the press activities has been stricter, but not enough as a deterrence; the work of theoretical research, practical summation of the press has not kept up with the practice.

Thus, undeniably, over the past years, along with the development of the country, the press has played a good role in guiding public opinion, evoking urgent issues, from which the policymaking agencies have paid attention and put on the agenda to resolve and form policy problems. The press is also a pioneer in defending the Party’s ideological foundation, fighting against wrong and hostile views, preventing harmful and toxic information, contributing to consolidating the confidence of officials, party members and people in the renovation course. However, in order to promote more effectively the role of the media in political life in general, in policymaking in particular, it is necessary to thoroughly, fully and deeply realize the issues with the role of the media in this aspect over the past years, thereby searching for synchronous and feasible solutions to help the press become an important source of information in the policymaking process.

*The author is MA, Academy of Journalism and Communication, Hanoi, Vietnam


The Views in the Article are of the Author