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Vietnam punishes editors over fish sauce story scandal

December 5, 2016

Vietnam on Monday punished two editors of a major newspaper which had earlier been fined for publishing what authorities said were false reports on toxic fish sauce.

Deputy chief editor of Thanh Nien newspaper Dang Ngoc Hoa, and senior executive Vo Van Khoi had their press cards revoked, Vietnam’s information and communication ministry said.

Communist Vietnam heavily restricts the media, which is all state-owned, meaning authorities rarely have to sanction an industry already under its thumb.

No reason was given for the order. But it comes after Thanh Nien was fined for reporting on a food scare that received widespread coverage mid-October.

In Vietnam, fish sauce is consumed daily by most of the country’s population of 93 million — as a dipping sauce, marinade or in soups.

A total of 50 news organisations were fined in November for running reports about high arsenic levels found in fish sauce, causing widespread panic.

Thanh Nien newspaper received the highest fine.

Authorities said the reports were misleading or incorrect because they failed to differentiate between highly toxic inorganic arsenic, and the less dangerous organic variety found commonly in seafood.

Food scares have been a regular source of anxiety in Vietnam, often leading to public anger.

The country’s communist leadership tends to stamp down on any expression of dissatisfaction or criticism of their handling of crises.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.