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Vietnam: New Rules on Media for Children

(Oct. 13, 2017) On October 1, 2017, a new Ministry of Information and Communications circular, issued by Minister Truong Minh Tuan on June 23, 2017, came into force in Vietnam. It has provisions on media designed for children and requires warnings for viewer or reader discretion related to material not suitable for them.  The rules of Circular 09/2017/TT-BTTIT apply to all media, whether published or broadcast, including items in the online press.  (Ministry Tightens Control over Publication of Children-Related Content, VIETNAM LAW AND LEGAL FORUM (updated Oct. 4, 2017); Circular 09/2017/TT-BTTIT, on Content Ratio, Broadcasting Time and Broadcasting Period Intended for Children and Warning of Contents Not Suitable for Children in Broadcasting Newspapers, Printed Newspapers, Online Newspapers and Publications (Circular) (June 23, 2017), VAN BAN PHAP LUAT.CO.)

The Circular was issued in part to fulfill aspects of the April 2016 Law on Children and defines content for children as material “to be produced, published, broadcasted, or released for readers or audiences” who are children and content not suitable for children as material “not suitable for the age, maturity level, needs, and capacity” of children or that risks “adverse impact on cognitive and psychological development of children.”  (Circular, art. 3.)  The 2016 Law on Children had raised the age for the end of childhood to 18 years from the previous 16.  (Revised Child Law: Pioneering Child Rights, VIETNAM NEWS (Apr. 2, 2016); Luật Trẻ em số 102/2016/QH13 [Law on Children No. 102/2016/QH13], VN DOC.COM (Apr. 10, 2017).)

Material for Children

Material for children to be given priority in production, broadcast, publication, and release includes that on

  • laws and policies on children rights;
  • discovery, learning, exchange of knowledge, recreation, and entertainment intended for children;
  • prevention and awareness of factors and acts likely to harm, abuse, hurt, or exploit children;
  • guidelines for life skills, self-protection skills, and safety skills for children; and
  • sex education, health, and nutrition.  (Circular, art. 4 ¶ 1.)

The Circular also states that coverage on children should be given special preference during the annual month devoted to children’s rights (id. art. 4 ¶ 2), which began on May 27 this year. (Vietnam Launches Action Month for Children 2017, VOV5.VN (May 27, 2017).)  In addition, the Circular requires that set amounts of time of various types of broadcasts be devoted to children’s topics.  For example, radio and television stations that state in their operating licenses that they provide broadcast journalism must cover news about children for a minimum of 60 seconds per broadcast.  (Circular art. 5 ¶ 1(a).)

Similar requirements are established for print media.  Newspapers that are issued daily or every few days must have at least 5% of their articles each week devoted to material for or about children, and monthly publications must have that type of content comprising 1% of their issues.  (Id. art. 8.)

Publishers of books and other materials for children must label them to indicate the age range for which they are suitable; those published in Vietnam in foreign languages must have this information in Vietnamese.  (Id.)

Publications for children written by Vietnamese authors must meet certain standards related to accuracy in what they state about the country’s history, sovereignty, and territory; must promote patriotism; must “nourish the soul, beautiful dignity, and healthy body” of children, and must conform to both the customs of the country and the level of maturity and the needs of children.  (Id. art. 13.)  Publications for children by foreign writers that are translated into Vietnamese and published or distributed in the country must meet similar standards on suitability for “habits, customs, maturity levels, needs and abilities of children and the political, cultural and social conditions of Vietnam.”  (Id. art. 14.)

Materials that Portray Children

The Circular also has provisions on material that concerns actual children.  It requires that in reports on a case involving a child victim, the child’s face be obscured and confidential information on the child be protected.  When images of children under the age of seven are used as characters or illustrations in programs on illegal activities, parental or guardian consent is required; for older children the child’s consent is also required.  (Id. art. 15.)

Materials Not Suitable for Children

Content not considered suitable for children, whether the material appears in print, on the air via radio or television, or online, must have warning notices that can be in the form of sounds, images, writing, or symbols.  The Circular contains specific standards for when and how these warnings appear and requires that they be short, clear, and easy to recognize and remember.  Furthermore, the language should distinguish material not suitable for those under six years of age, not suitable for those from six to eleven, and not suitable for those under 16.  (Id. art. 16.)

The Circular also outlines the responsibilities of press agencies, publishers, and importers of publications, of agencies that manage the press and publishers, of the provincial Departments of Information and Communications, and of offices attached to the national Ministry of Information and Communications.  (Id. arts. 17-20.)