A journalist for the Nha bao & Cong luan (Journalists & Public Opinion), Phung Hieu, was quickly removed from his position in the newspaper for a status posted on his facebook page regarding the just departed Cuban figurehead, Fidel Castro.
On Sunday (November 27), the next day after news about Fidel Castro’s death spread in Vietnam’s social networks, Hieu went to have some drink with his friends. Then he got back home late at night and wrote on his page,
“Let me burn an incense for you, Fidel Castro, and say congratulations to your people who are going to move on to a new period in their life. After almost 50 years ruling the country of Cuba with dictatorship and Marxist dogmatism, he left Cuba a poor and backward country with old, Soviet-styled Ladas and B&W televisions.
In the recent few days, the media and the people in my country keep naively expressing our condolences and grief over your death without having any pity for a nation which has been lost in poverty, retrograde and isolation, which has lost freedom rights and equality.
It’s fortunate that your younger brother has realized it and acted quickly enough to revive the country and gradually taken it out of the dark. Hopefully after your death, the Cuban people will find themselves integrated in the progressive world.”
Co Gai Do Long, a prominent facebooker and journalist, said that only two days later, the editors told Phung Hieu to remove the status, saying the central department of propaganda was angered.
Phung Hieu did as he was told, but that might have been too late.
On December 1, in the weekly meeting with heads of major newspapers, officials from the Ministry of Information and Communication and the registered Association of Journalists raised the case of Phung Hieu, whom they accused of “having used offensive and satirical language, showed his lack of political acumen, and expressed wrongful opinions about the Cuban revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro.”
Both agencies commanded the Nha bao & Cong luan to strictly punish Phung Hieu.
Consequently, Phung Hieu was removed from his position of Saigon chief representative, which may mean a cut in his income.
His editor-in-chief, Nguyen Ngoc Nien, was also rebuked and dismissed for one month since December 1.
On his part, Phung Hieu was quoted by Co Gai Do Long as saying, “I only spoke the truth.”
He added, “Ten years of working as a journalist is more than enough. No one buys my newspaper while I, as the representative in Saigon, must move heaven and earth to make ends meet. I feel so ashamed whenever having to meet entrepreneurs and offering to carry advertisement. That’s enough. I will take this as a chance to quit the job.”
Phung Hieu is not the first journalist to get into trouble for what he writes on his facebook page. Last September, Do Dung, a senior journalist working for the Thanh Nien (Youth), was dismissed from his job after he posted a satirical column about Ho Chi Minh and the other revolutionary leaders that brought the communists to power.
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