Lê Quý – first editor-in-chief of VOV Overseas Service

Lê Quý – first editor-in-chief of VOV Overseas Service - ảnh 1
Journalist Le Quy (L)
(VOVworld) - At almost 90 years of age, Le Quy still has a passion for journalism which inspires every young journalist who meets him.

Le Quy was the first Editor-in-chief of the Voice of Vietnam’s Overseas Service and the Vietnam Television, and was deputy head of the Vietnam Radio and Television Commission. He was the first Vietnamese reporter in charge of producing programs for overseas broadcast. Quy said experiences he had during the establishment of the Voice of Vietnam and its activities during the wars against the French and the Americans will never fade from his mind, adding that those experiences provided valuable lessons for his later journalism career. 

Born and raised in Huế, Le Quy was attending Hue National High School when the August Revolution broke out in 1945. Other outstanding figures of the revolutionary period like Xuân Diệu, Huy Cận, and Tran Hoan, were just a few years older or younger than Quy, and studied at the same high school. Student movements were quite strong at that time and many students volunteered for the front line.

Lê Quý was admitted to the Liaison Committee of the National Liberation Army where he was in charge of delivering official dispatches, letters, and messages from Mang Cá station to Khe Sanh, Sepon (in Laos)... His working days at Mang Ca station as a liaison officer paved the way for his exciting journalism career later on.

After the August Revolution, Le Quy met Tran Van Chuong (known as Billy Chuong) in April 1946. Chuong, who spoke excellent English at that time took him to Hanoi and helped him find work at the Voice of Vietnam. As Le Quy only spoke French, he was taught English by Tran Van Chuong.

“I was very excited to have found work at VOV although my knowledge of the Revolution and overseas propaganda was quite limited at that time. My colleagues and I were very young then. Tran Lam was still a student. Bui Xuan Hoan was in charge of programs in French, Tran Sinh in charge of broadcasts in both Mandarin and Cantonese, while Chuong and I focused on programs in French and English. We were all very excited by our work and did our best to fulfill any tasks assigned regardless of the numerous difficulties at that time”, Le Quy recalled.

“There would be no struggles without difficulties and sacrifices. Our battles were radio broadcasts where we fought without weapons but endured a lot of hardship”, said Le Quy. He said their main task at that time was to provide international friends with current and accurate information regarding the Party and State’s policies towards the protracted resistance wars, measures to promote national unity, including how to connect with overseas Vietnamese, as well as timely editorials to counter any distorted messages about our resistance wars... 

During 9 years of refuge in Viet Bac military zone, the Voice of Vietnam had to relocate its office dozens of times. We had no studio, microphone, radio broadcasting equipment, and in particular no formal information sources.

During that time of hardship, there were a number of outstanding VOV commentators on international issues, including Tran Lam, Tran Kim Xuyen, Tran Van Chuong, and later Tran Van Giau, Hoai Thanh, Nguyen Khanh Toan, Tran Cong Tuong, and Nguyen Tu Huyen. Their commentaries and reports were then translated into different languages for broadcast overseas (VOV broadcast in 6 languages at that time - English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Laotian, and Khmer). Tran Cong Tuong and Tran Van Chuong even wrote their commentaries and reports in English and French and many of those outraged the French colonialists.

VOV’s success in overseas broadcasting during that time was attributed to the tremendous efforts by VOV’s staff and due attention and care of government leaders, especially Uncle Ho. Le Quy was very excited when talking about Uncle Ho: “Uncle Ho understood thoroughly the impact and influence of overseas propaganda. He listened to the radio almost every night regardless of his piles of work. He often noted down inaccurate information from radio broadcasts in red ink and sent them to us so we could avoid making the same mistakes in the future”.

Le Quy often told his friends and colleagues this story: In 1946 and 1947, many places in France were inundated. The French media covered news about French people suffering huge losses and even hunger. We also covered this news in our broadcasts with the implication that “it serves France right for invading us”. The next day, we received a note from Uncle Ho in which he wrote: “This is very inappropriate way for you to broadcast news. It’s the French troops, not French people, who invade us. We should show sympathy for the French people who are suffering from natural calamities instead of enjoying their sorrows”. Le Quy said he learnt a big lesson about the production of overseas broadcasts for his entire life from that story. 

Returning to Hanoi after 1954, the Voice of Vietnam developed its foreign language broadcast section into the Overseas Service, with Le Quy promoted to Head of the Service. Vietnam entered another resistance war against the Americans. Le Quy and his colleagues continued to produce overseas broadcasts. 

When asked about his success, Le Quy laughed and said: “There are no pennies from heaven! All is thanks to the wise leadership of our boss and the efforts of our staff. At that time we broadcast in 12 languages but lacked staff due to the fact that many units had to evacuate from Hanoi. Despite enormous difficulties, we made more editorials and reports which were broadcast in an incisive style with trenchant words to show the enemy the power of Vietnam and to make world sympathize with us more.

Most noteworthy were broadcasts in English by Trinh Thi Ngo, targeting American soldiers. The radio shows reached listeners in both Saigon and the States (thanks to the support of Cuba’s Havana radio transmission station). Broadcaster Trinh Thi Ngo, with her soft yet trenchant voice has become an obsession for US soldiers, who named her Hana Hanoi or the Hanoi Witch. 

Le Quy recalled: “After many years working at the Overseas Service, I understand the importance of understanding the enemy in order to fight them. In the difficult circumstances of war time, all VOV’s staff did their best to find the most creative ways to improve the propaganda efficiency of their broadcasts. It was these times that gave us such creativity”.

Le Quy often laughs whenever asked about his opinions regarding the overseas broadcasting. He said: “different time, different manners, but the most important thing for any broadcaster working in this field is that he or she must be skilled in the language of their broadcasts. It’s even better if they are good at more than one foreign language. They must be fluent in them as if they were their mother tongues, in order to write news, reports, and editorials of best quality in those languages. Each newspaper, radio, or TV program has its own audience and we can only satisfy their our audience’s demands once we understand them. For radio broadcasters, a single listener’s letter can provide us with many hints and implications. To media agencies, training activities for staff, reporters, and editors are of great importance. In addition to their language skills, overseas broadcasters must never stop improving their journalistic skills and other social knowledge. A good understanding of national culture is a must for any broadcaster, especially those working in the overseas services. Only with a thorough understanding of Vietnam’s culture, can a broadcaster introduce the best of it to foreigners.

Since his retirement, journalist Le Quy has been living in Ho Chi Minh City. He is now involved in appraising foreign newspapers and books imported to Vietnam. He said: “reading not only improves our knowledge but also our language skills.”

Le Quy often says: “the Voice of Vietnam is my second home and the VOV Overseas Service staff are my siblings”./.