Vietnamese Catholics protest

against UCIP prize

award to "patriotic" newspaper


Prepared for Internet by Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan



Catholics protest against UCIP prize award to "patriotic" newspaper.

Saigon (Fides Oct/22/2001) - This UCIP award is "an offense and a blow to the Catholics in Vietnam". The prize should be reconsidered and given to a more worthy winner. This opinion was voiced by Redemptorist Father Stephen Chan Tin, in Saigon, regarding the Gold Medal 2001 awarded by UCIP (International Catholic Union of the Press) to a Vietnamese newspaper Cong Gaio va Dan Toc CG&DT. Commenting the award, made during a UCIP Congress held 17-23 September, 2001, in Fribourg Switzerland, Fr Huynh Cong Minh, former CG&DT editor and head of the Union Committee of Vietnamese Catholics, praised the publication for its role in working to encourage Catholics to take an active part in building up the country and to create harmony between the sacred and the profane.

In an open letter to UCIP, Father Chan Tin says this paper is Catholic only in name. It is in actual fact "the Communist Party channel for spreading propaganda among Catholics". He explains that the CG&DT is published by the Union Committee based in Saigon City. The Committee was set up by the Patriotic Front to put into practice of Party instructions regarding Catholics. Whereas the role of the Patriotic Front is to execute Party policies regarding various categories such as intellectuals, Buddhists, Catholics. Realizing that it was illusory to try to create a Patriotic Church like China, the Party thought of infiltrating instigators into the Church in Vietnam, giving this task to four "nationalist" priests: Rev. Huynh Cong Minh, the group leader, Rev. Truong Ba Can, present CG&DT editor, Rev. Phan Khac Tu, Union Committee secretary general and Rev. Vuong Dinh Bich, a former CG&DT editor, the Redemptorist explained.

Rev. Huynh Cong Minh was councilor to the Archbishop of Saigon between 1975 and 1989. His political stance is known. In 1976 in front of the National Assembly he professed his unconditioned loyalty to the Party which has given the country "a new society".

"These priests are Party spokesmen, they execute Party orders and intervene in religious activities and the daily life of the archdiocese of Saigon," Father Stephen Chan Tin says in the letter. "The CG&DT is the only publication allowed for Vietnam's 7 million Catholics. With no one to object or voice a different opinion (the Vietnamese Bishops' plan to start a bulletin of religious information has yet to be authorized by the government) the promoters of CG&DT can say what they like in the media over which they have a monopoly", the distressed priest explains.

More than once the paper has taken action against the Church, Father Chan Tin recalls. After the Communist victory in 1975, it pushed for the expulsion of the Apostolic Delegate Mgr. Lemaitre; in 1978 it voiced support for government confiscation of five monasteries in Thu Duc; in 1988, obeying Party orders, it voiced disapproval for the canonization of Vietnam's 117 Martyrs, whom it denigrated. Most recently this year the paper did not hesitate to criticize the pro freedom/democracy activity of Rev. Nguyen Van Ly. But most serious of all, Father Chan Tin says, is the paper's "daily propaganda in Saigon archdiocese which has continued for 26 years and could weaken the faith life of the Catholic people as well as their loyalty to the Holy See".

This is why on behalf of the Catholic community in Vietnam, Rev Chan Tin strongly protests the award given to the CG&DT, because freedom of speech, expression and press, principles upheld by UCIP, are downtrodden every day in Vietnam. "I judge this award to be a serious mistake, due to lack of information on the role of the newspaper in question and the Union Committee in the context of Communist Party policies", Father Chan Tin concludes.



October 5, 2001

Catholic journalists and the challenges of globalization.

Fribourg (Fides Oct/05/2001) - The 19th World Congress of the International Union of Catholic Press, UCIP, offered Catholic journalists of the north and south of the world an opportunity to discuss the "media and the challenge of globalization", and also to reflect and pray about the "globalization of terror" after the shock of the attacks on the United States. UCIP's members are journalists, communications teachers, editors in more than 110 countries throughout the world. The Congress was held from 17 to 23 September 2001 in Fribourg, Switzerland.

In a message to the participants, Pope John Paul II encouraged them to "reflect on globalization's significant ethical aspects", recommending that they measure the progress produced by this phenomenon "in the light of the Gospel concept of the inalienable dignity of every human person, the unity of the human family and the moral duty to promote authentic development and the building of a world of solidarity, justice and peace".

The theme of dialogue between Christians and Muslims was addressed by Antoine Issa, a journalist in Beirut, who represents the media in the Lebanese parliament. "In the Arab world there is conflict - Issa said - between orientation towards globalization and preserving the identity of culture. Many have asked for special measures in this regard. Frightened by the perverse aspects of present globalization, the Arab world seeks to take steps insisting more on a sense of morality, dialogue, respect for moral and religious values, support for democracy and respect for human rights".

Petronilla Samuriwo, who writes for the National Herald, Harare, Zimbabwe, asked if "globalization" is a new "more sophisticated word for new forms of colonialism" also cultural, seeing that "cultural imperialism of the developed countries threatens our music, our films...". In the meantime the international community has abandoned Africa and its struggle against endemic diseases, AIDS first of all and the need to promote education of children.

In China, Lisa Leung Yuk-ming, journalist and media teacher explained, "the Communist system made the media the Party spokesman: its job was to make known the activity of the government and to educate public opinion to the dominant ideology". But with the "gradual adoption of a more socialist system, in China there has been increasing opening to a market economy. Competition between media has led to a softer line and more openness to social problems and attention for public interests". Now, she added, with "the revolution of the internet" many journalists are updating their methods and television channels via satellite and cable are being made available.

The UCIP Gold Medal 2001 was assigned to the Vietnamese weekly "Cong Giao va dan toc" since 1985 in the front line helping the Vietnamese to know and defend their rights. For this reason the paper had to face a court case and many obstacles and difficulties. The Medal is a reward for the paper's exemplary commitment to defend freedom of opinion and expression.

The Titus Brandsma prize was assigned to Tom Kamara, a Liberian journalist, editor of The New Democrat paper which he started in Monrovia in 1993 during the civil war. "The main goal of The New Democrat - Mr Brandsma explained - was to defend democracy, and promote respect for human rights and transparent government". This provoked reaction from military and politicians, intolerant towards criticism. In 1996 the paper's offices were set on fire, and the following year Kamara was forced to leave Liberia after repeated threats to his life. In July 2000, the government outlawed the publication.

At the end of the Congress, UCIP elected its the new president, Brazilian Ismar de Oliveira Soares who teaches Psychology of Communications at San Paolo University in Brazil and is already president of the Latin American Catholic Union of the Press.


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