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Title: Securing freedom of information in Vietnamese government and law.
Authors: Hue, Mai Thi Kim
Keywords: Freedom of information
Vietnamese public law
Good governance
Legal transplantation
Issue Date: 18-Nov-2016
Series/Report no.: The University of Queensland, School of Law;242 Pages
Abstract: This research concerns freedom of information (FOI) in Vietnam within the context of global democratisation. FOI may ‘oxygenate’ democracy by strengthening transparency, accountability and efficiency in the operation of governments and facilitating implementation of human rights. More than half the world’s countries have FOI legislation. It has been conceived of as a right and/or a tool for better governance. The research addresses whether Vietnam, a single party state with a moderate level of democracy and a weak economy, is in need of FOI reform and the potential impact of such reform. FOI regimes do not evolve in a political vacuum, and their adoption cannot be a mechanical ‘tick-a-box’ borrowing from outside. The approach to FOI is highly context-dependent. With this in mind, and drawing on international experiences (both contemporary and historical) and legal transplantation theories, the thesis examines the desirability and adaptability of FOI reform in Vietnam. It is a contextual and comparative law thesis aimed not at drafting a model FOI bill for Vietnam, but reaching a realistic road map for FOI reform there. This thesis presents comparative legal and institutional analysis in a dynamic institutional setting - given Vietnam’s transitional openness to democratisation generally and FOI in particular. The social, cultural and political scene in Vietnam indicates a number of positive and negative features and trends, which will alternately facilitate and inhibit FOI reform in Vietnam. FOI is shaped by the local context but, conversely, it is capable of facilitating improvement in local conditions. Vietnam already has several factors necessary for the establishment of a mechanism for information access. This means that Vietnam can adopt an FOI reform as part of broader ongoing democratic reform. By reforming FOI, a flow of information will be created, enabling public access to public information while eroding public administrative secrecy. Gradually, it is to be hoped, FOI will help strengthen good governance in Vietnam as transparency, efficiency and accountability in the operation of government increase. The research documents however that enacting a specific FOI law is just the initial step to reforming FOI. As the Vietnamese government and Vietnamese law have many distinctive attributes, the research suggests that it is unrealistic to unrealistic to proceed, initially, with an overly ambitious FOI act. Instead, the Vietnamese government could consider a reform aiming to ‘push’ public agencies to disclose more information and encourage the public to ‘pull’ public agencies to extract information. Such a reform, together with other efforts to improve the cultural, social, economic and political environment, should gradually increase information disclosure and make possible the formation of the free flow of information that is essential for good governance and protection of diverse social interests. As a tool for good governance, FOI cannot work alone but relies on interaction with other accountability, transparency and efficiency mechanisms and a supportive local context. This thesis emphasises that FOI reform in Vietnam should be accompanied by detailed strategies to accommodate the FOI legislation to its new environment and also to make local conditions more receptive.
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