National broadcaster Vietnam Television on Monday admitted that a recent news story about dishonest farming practices was staged by one of its reporters.
The report about a vegetable farming village in the central province of Thanh Hoa was aired on May 3 and has since upset many farmers.
In the report, a local farmer 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 village criticized the broadcaster, often known as VTV, 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 whole 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 farmers said following the story, they could no longer sell their vegetables. They then sent a complaint to VTV.
A few days later, Phuong, the reporter, returned to the village to apologize to the farmers. But they refused to accept her apology, demanding an answer from VTV.
The broadcaster issued its official statement on Wednesday, confirming that the story was completely made up and that the reporter has been suspended. It also apologized to the farmers affected by the report.
No legal action has been announced.