Following the announcement of huge cuts to the BBC World Service, with many staff being asked to relocate overseas, journalists have said plans to move the Vietnamese service to Thailand will pose dangers to press freedom.
The Guardian reports several reporters raising concerns that there is history of the Vietnamese state abducting journalists from Thailand – and that the BBC had not recognised that Vietnamese people do not automatically feel at home in Thailand, despite both being south-east Asian countries.
One World Service employee told the Guardian: “Being a critic of the Vietnamese government, even when you’re in Thailand, is not safe.”
Most of the BBC’s Vietnamese-language staff have previously operated out of London, due to the oppression of press freedom in Vietnam.
A BBC spokesperson told the Guardian: “The safety and security of our journalists is paramount. We are not proposing to open any new operations in Bangkok – for a number of years the Vietnamese service has been split between Bangkok and London, with half of the journalists based in Bangkok and half in London, all producing excellent and impartial journalism.”
This anxiety comes after the BBC announced the move – first published on Deadline – as part of a £30M ($32.7M) World Service savings drive, will see seven more language services moving to digital only, the closure of BBC Arabic radio and BBC Persian radio and the ending of some TV and radio programs.
More than half of the 41 language services will become digital once the proposals have been implemented, and the BBC has confirmed the relocation of some of its World Service journalists away from the UK. Around 380 jobs will be lost.