Vietnam's popular online magazine Zing News, affiliated with one of the country's top digital groups, VNG Corp, said on Thursday it had to suspend publications for three months after a government investigation.
The Communist-ruled country is stepping up a crackdown on media, with plans also to limit social media accounts that post news-related content, which the government says mislead readers into thinking they are authorised news outlets.
In a statement posted on its website, Zing News said during the suspension period "it will focus on overcoming and thoroughly correcting the shortcomings" in its application of a prime minister's decision from 2019 which adopted a "press development and management" plan.
The plan tightened controls on media and, among other limitations, required newspapers to have an affiliation with a ministry and banned magazines from publishing breaking news.
Zing News, also known as Tri Thuc Truc Tuyen, is licensed as a digital magazine, but has covered a wide range of topics including breaking and daily news.
In a statement on July 24 seeking to clarify the nature of its relationship with VNG Corp, Zing News said it was not owned by the company.
"Tri Thuc Truc Tuyen is the media outlet under the Viet Nam's Publishing Association. Meanwhile, VNG Corp, is our business partner who provides the outlet with technology service," the statement said.
VNG Corp declined to comment.
The information ministry, which conducted the investigation of Zing News, did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not the first time a media outlet has been ordered to suspend publication in Vietnam. In 2018, state-run Tuoi Tre had to halt publication for three months for posting false information, according to a government statement.
Vietnam was ranked 178th out of 180 countries in the 2023 media freedom index compiled by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, faring better only than China and North Korea.
"Vietnam's traditional media are closely controlled by the single party. Independent reporters and bloggers are often jailed," the non-profit said in its evaluation of the country.