September 01, 2005
Absent People Syndrome
Time and Tuoi Tre. What we need is a good love story.
It is reported that Korean actress Song Hye Kyo has decided not to proceed with her defamation lawsuit against three of Vietnam's newspapers, who published news she was caught at Incheon airport with drugs.
Earlier this month, the press in Vietnam was shocked with the news that the star would file a lawsuit against three newspapers for alleging that she was caught at Incheon International Airport with 50 ecstasy pills in her luggage.
The piece was first covered Aug. 10 by Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh — a legal affairs newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City — and was republished by other e-newspapers. Song and her managing company Sidus denied all allegations.
Faced with the lawsuit, Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh retracted the allegations and issued a correction, saying it was not careful in processing the news. Song's case is a warning signal to Vietnamese media in gathering and delivering news. In Vietnam foreign news-makers have often been given little consideration since they live far away. Some journalists here call this "absent people syndrome."
A year or so ago, I read an article in another newspaper that there existed in the Mekong town of Ben Tre, a Che Guevara school. It wrote that at the school a large portrait of Fidel Castro was proudly displayed and that delagates from Cuba paid their respects at school annually. The area, named Moncado, commemorates the close adn long friendship between Vietnam and Cuba (and likewise, there is a village in Cuba called Ben Tre). Intrigued, I decided to search for this school. I invited a journalist from another newspaper and originally from Ben Tre to join me. She had not heard of the school and was interested as I. After a day going into the deepest recesses of jungle and coconut trees, we arrived at what "might have been" Moncado. We there met with an official who informed us that to his knowledge there was no such school and pointed only to a small medical station that was donated by Koreans. He hadn't seen Cubans for years and when they did arrive, it was more tourism than anything official. The story led us to a phantom. Although interesting in itself, it does point to a problem with journalistic integrity. People rarely follow up to verify if the information, particularly in the arts, culture and entertainment (van hoa) is correct. Particularly in cases dealing with foreigners. What are the chances that the foreigner being discussed is going to have some story in Vietnamese translated and verified.
Hopefully this latest public gaffe will encourage better reporting, particularly as it comes to light right after the annual meeting of journalists in Hanoi.
Posted by rst at September 1, 2005 02:40 PM
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