Vietnam reporter accused of falsifying story on amputee drivers

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A snapshot from Nguyen Dung Chinh's report on VTV1, showing Nguyen Van Nhung, 45, driving a truck with his left hand. Nhung accused Chinh of falsely reporting that he drives truck for a living. PHOTO: TUOI TRE

Two amputees in the central province of Binh Dinh have accused a local journalist of fabricating a TV report that claimed the duo drives for a living.

The aim of the report was to alert the public about dangers posed by drivers, including handicapped ones, who lack formal driving training.

Nguyen Dung Chinh's Ai chắp cánh cho thần chết? (Who lends hands to the Reaper?) was first aired on Binh Dinh Television on January 29 before its extract was broadcast on Vietnam Television's VTV1 on June 28, Giao Thong Van Tai (Transport) newspaper reported Monday.

The nearly-14 minute clip showed Dinh Duong Hai, 51, a veteran from Quy Nhon Town who had both his legs amputated, driving a passenger bus; and Nguyen Van Nhung, 45, a Hoai Nhon District resident, driving a truck with his left hand, as he had lost most of his right arm during childhood in a rice mill accident.

Hai and Nhung were criticized by friends and relatives for their dangerous behavior. They were advised to cease driving, the newspaper reported.

"I was shocked. When I explained, no one believed me," Hai said.

Hai said his family had a bus 10 years ago, but that he always hired licensed drivers to transport passengers.

In June 2012, Chinh, the journalist, had Hai drive for him to film a story on the celebrations being held for Veteran's Day (July 27).

Hai said he refused at first, but was persuaded later that month, and ended up using prosthetic legs to drive a seven-seat passenger bus which Chinh had provided for one kilometer. He regrets participating in the deception, Hai added.

Meanwhile, Nhung said he was pulled over by district police in August 2011 while driving his family's truck, at which time he signed an agreement not to drive anymore.

He said a neighbor introduced Chinh to him a year later. He then agreed to drive the truck for a short distance as the reporter promised that the filming will lead to Nhung receiving support from benefactors.

"My greed killed me," Nhung said.

A Giao Thong Van Tai reporter found that Hai, who learned how to drive when serving in the army, and Nhung, who taught himself to drive, do not drive for their living as Chinh's report claimed.

Nguyen Qua, chief inspector of the provincial Transport Department, said neither of them have driver's licenses and that both have been banned by local authorities from driving for years.

But Chinh told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper Tuesday that he was certain that at the time he filmed the report late last year, the men were still driving for a living and only stopped doing so when they were investigated by the provincial transport department.

"I have enough evidence to prove that," he said.

But he admitted to the Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (HCMC Law) newspaper that he did not tell the men that he wanted to film them for a report about the dangers associated with handicapped drivers because he thought they would refuse. 

Pham Vinh Thai, director of Binh Dinh Television, told Giao Thong Van Tai that he has ordered a departmental enquiry into the case.

The Binh Dinh Journalists' Association told the paper that if the journalist made up the story, they would consider punishments for Chinh, including revoking a prize Chinh received in June for quality reporting.

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