"The press should not report information that harms the country's interests," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was quoted as saying by the VietnamNet online news service.

"The truth is always the truth, but we must choose the suitable time to tell the truth to ensure the country's interests," the report quoted him as telling a weekend gathering of the Ministry of Information and Communications.

"The over 17,000 journalists must be loyal soldiers serving the nation."

All media in Vietnam, which endured decades of war against France and the United States, are linked to the communist state.

In 2008 a reporter for the Thanh Nien newspaper was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in revealing a high-profile graft case. He was freed after three months.

Reporters Without Borders, a global press freedom watchdog, last year ranked Vietnam near the bottom, at 166 of 175 nations, in its latest annual Press Freedom Index. Related article: Vietnam dissidents set to go on trial

Vietnam's restrictions on the news media and Internet sites such as Facebook threaten the country's rapid economic progress, Western donors last month told an annual meeting of World Bank and other officials.

Agence France Presse - January 22, 2010