The police department of a Central Highlands province has accused Vietnam Television (VTV) of airing an inaccurate account of deforestation in the area, the latest in a series of scandals to hit the national broadcaster.
In a two-part feature that aired on May 4 and 5, the VTV24 news center claimed that huge areas of forest in Dak Lak Province had been, and continue to be, destroyed by locals for logging, with the wood being traded with impunity by local authorities.
However, the provincial administration has disputed several details included in the program, and tasked the police department with verifying its accuracy.
On Tuesday, the Dak Lak administration and police held a press conference to announce their findings, concluding that the deforestation reportage had been manipulated by the producer.
Pham Minh Thang, deputy head of the province’s investigative police unit, acknowledged that forests in Dak Lak had been destroyed in recent times, but not as depicted in the VTV24 reports.
“There is inaccurate content that was staged by the reporters during the filming process,” Thang said.
Dak Lak police said three local residents interviewed have each confessed to having been invited to ‘act’ in the report.
In April, two men and a woman visited the locals, asking to interview them and film their crops.
The alleged VTV24 employees also requested the locals to take their saws into the forest and chop down two trees while being filmed.
One of the trees had been felled before.
The locals were later paid VND600,000 (US$26.79), according to police accounts.
Police officers added that the VTV24 reports were filmed in the area where local residents had cleared the forest in order to start their own crops back in 1994, and which was not a newly destroyed forest as claimed in the coverage.
Nguyen Ngoc Ty, deputy director of the Dak Lak Department of Information and Communications, said the provincial administration will call on the Ministry of Information and Communications and VTV24 to resolve the case as per law.
In the meantime, the VTV24 news center fired back on its Facebook account on Tuesday night that it would “repeatedly re-broadcast the series of deforestation reports," in the wake of the “recent news reports containing inaccurate information about the way [it] produced this series.”