By JUTHATHIP LUCKSANAWONG
Assures reporters will not be blocked from covering Asean summit in Vientiane.
Laos yesterday defended its latest regulations imposed on foreign journalists, saying it would not prevent foreign media from covering the 2016 Asean due to be hosted in Vientiane.
It said other countries also had regulations to ensure national security,
“We don’t have restrictions but procedures, the procedures that other countries also have to ensure national security,” said Laos’ Information, Culture and Tourism Vice Minister and Lao Journalists Association (LJA) president Savankhone Razmountry.
The new rules came into effect in January 14 and require foreign media to submit its coverage to the Lao government for screening before publishing, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.
However, foreign journalists who cover the Asean Summit in November will not have to do so, said Vorasack Pravongviengkham, deputy director general of Lao National Radio (LNR).
“Only those who come to film or cover documentaries are required [to submit their coverage],” said Vorasack. To cover Asean Summits in Lao, foreign journalists are expected to go through government procedures and be escorted by its officers, according to Savankhone.
Visiting journalists have to declare lists of questions and topics for their coverage to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR, he said.
The country has a mechanism to deal with visiting journalists, including state agencies, the Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies and also the LJA, he said, without mentioning how it operates.
“There will not be any problems for the foreign media to cover this news in Lao,” stressed Savankhone.
He was speaking at a seminar entitled “Laos as host of Asean” hosted by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA). LJA has been visiting Thailand to strengthen ties between Thai and Lao journalists and create better understanding among each other to ensure smooth cooperation in Asean.
Meanwhile, Vorasack said that Lao media usually takes time to ensure news accuracy before publishing. It does not attempt to conceal facts, he said, referring to two cases in March when Chinese tourists were ambushed, leaving nine injured and one dead. TJA and LJA have for decades had close ties – but there were certain different points of view, said TAJ president Wanchai Wongmeechai, and it was important to learn from each other.
During the seminar, TJA adviser and senior correspondent Kavi Chongkittavorn pointed out the challenges that Laos would face when holding an Asean summit. He said ‘big brothers’ – the United States and China – also had ambitions to play an important role in the Asean community.
Kavi emphasised Laos success as the host of Asean. It was shown in its courage to help ease international issues such as those of the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea conflict, and its sincerity in following the Asean charter.