Community plans protests against magazine

July 22, 2007

Community plans protests against magazine

Many members of the local Vietnamese-American community say they are offended by Viet Weekly’s pro-communist stance.

The Orange County Register

GARDEN GROVE – Hundreds of Vietnamese Americans are expected to protest today outside the Main Street office of a weekly news magazine, which many allege is serving as a mouthpiece for the communist government in Vietnam by publishing a series of articles sympathetic to the communists.

The Viet Weekly has incurred the wrath of the expatriate community in Little Saigon, many of whom came to the United States as refugees in the years following the fall of Saigon on April 30 1975.

But publisher Le Vu, himself a refugee who fled Vietnam by boat, said he is simply exercising his First Amendment rights. He said his main goal in printing stories about communists is to create a forum for dialogue and open doors for discussion that were shut decades ago.

“All we’re trying to do is to tell both sides of the story,” he said.

But organizers of today’s rally such as Diep Le say it is by no means a small portion of the community.

On Sunday more than 1,000 people gathered at the Westminster Civic Center to plan a protest against Viet Weekly, and many of them were so incensed that they wanted to go out to Main Street and protest right away, Le said.

“We’re a community of people who have suffered in the hands of the communists,” Le said. “It upsets us when we see a newspaper in this community praising communists.”

Demonstrators plan to protest outside the newspaper office for several days, he said.

“We don’t like the way they work and we’ll protest until they change their ways,” Le said.

Freedom of press is not the issue here, said Thuy Hoang, program director for the VNCR radio station in Little Saigon, who does a daily news program himself.

“Imagine if you glorify Hitler in a predominantly Jewish community or write pro-Ku Klux Klan articles in a newspaper that circulates in a black community,” he said. “That’s exactly what this is.”

The problem many Vietnamese Americans have with the Viet Weekly is that their reporting is not fair and balanced, said Jean Libby, a retired history teacher who created her own blogspot titled Viet-Am Review, where she mostly writes about accomplishments of Vietnamese Americans.

“From what I’ve seen, Viet Weekly thinks free speech includes lying, fabricating news and defaming individuals who mean a lot to the community,” Libby said.

She said Viet Weekly recently twisted the words of Michael Marine, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, saying that he condoned the actions of the communist government in suppressing the rights of political dissidents such as Catholic priest, Nguyen Van Ly. The photograph of Ly, whose mouth was covered by a plainclothes officer as he tried to speak in a Vietnam courtroom, was widely circulated in Little Saigon and viewed with disgust by local community members.

But Vu vehemently denies his newspaper concocts news or manipulates audio files, as Libby alleges.

“That’s a ridiculous charge,” he said.

Vu said the members in the community who criticize his magazine are not proponents of free speech as they like to believe.

“Vietnamese Americans came to this country in pursuit of freedom,” Vu said. “Now, they can’t take it that I’m publishing something that they cannot accept. There’s no way we’ll change the way we operate.”

Bob Jones, a Westminster resident who served as a U.S. diplomat in Vietnam before 1975 and later worked with Vietnamese refugees in Minnesota, said he believes the Viet Weekly young reporters have touched a nerve because of their “courageous reporting.”

“The older generation still has strong feelings about the communist government,” he said. “But the new generation is getting over the differences, want to travel back home and reestablish ties. Viet Weekly is trying to portray that, but is facing resistance from the community.”

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or dbharath@ocregister.com

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