Authorities have imposed a fine of VND30 million (US$1,344) against national broadcaster Vietnam Television for a controversial news story about dishonest farming practices that it admitted had been staged.
Hoang Vinh Bao, head of the Information and Communications Ministry’s Radio and Television Bureau, announced the punitive measure late last week. The report was aired on May 3 and has since upset many farmers.
In the story, a local farmer in Thanh Hoa Province was shown using a large broom to sweep over green plants. The absurd practice was meant to create marks and holes on the leaves, to trick consumers into thinking that the farmer did not use any chemicals to kill pests and worms, the report claimed.
After the story was aired, farmers at the same village criticized the broadcaster for being unethical.
They said the reporter, Pham Thi Phuong, staged the whole thing and created a fake news story that has damaged the reputation and business of the village.
"She came to us and said she would help us introduce our good farming practices to viewers across the country," said a representative. "She then gave us a broom, asking us to clean our vegetables with it so that she could film us."
The broadcaster issued an official statement last week, confirming that the story was completely made up. It also apologized to the farmers affected by the report.
Phuong, the reporter, has been suspended.