Vietnamese fake news story smells like government propaganda, say journalists – Radio Free Asia
A recent message about a selfless doctor, which was rife on Vietnamese social media before it was declared an invention by authorities, smells like old-school Communist Party propaganda, journalists in the Southeast Asian country told RFA.
The story, which emerged and debunked earlier this month, told of the selflessness of “Dr. Khoa, ”a doctor who removed respirators from his coronavirus-affected parents to rescue an expectant mother who was in labor with twins. According to the story, Khoa also gave birth to the twins.
Khoa’s parents contracted COVID-19 by “working wholeheartedly on pandemic hotspots” and died after Khoa removed their respirators, the report said.
On August 8, one day after the publication of the Dr. Khoa story, Nguyen Thi Huynh Mai of the Ho Chi Minh City Health Service confirmed that the story was a complete fiction.
“This spread of false news has wasted everyone’s time and interrupted necessary updates on the fight against COVID-19,” Mai told local newspaper Tuoi Tre.
After the hoax, believed to be from a Facebook account claiming to be Khoa, was spread on social media, it was posted on the Facebook pages by Nguyen Duc Hien, deputy editor-in-chief of the Ho- Chi Minh City legal newspaper, shared, and Hoang Nguyen Vu, a former state media journalist.
The authorities fined Hien and Vu five million dong (about US $ 200) each. The two said that they heard the news from Dr. Khoa’s sacrifices would have shared without thoroughly reviewing it.
Dr. Khoa became widespread because it is customary for the Vietnamese government to fabricate messages to pursue a specific political goal or to cover up a mistake, journalists told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
“In my opinion, this fake story has two purposes. First, to blur the problem that the real lack of respiratory protective equipment is due to poor governance. Second, they want to test the Vietnamese people to see if they will believe such a fictional story, ”freelance journalist Pham Minh Vu told RFA.
“When I was a sophomore in journalism, I got my first lesson on ‘journalistic ethics,’ which said we should write news in a way that would protect the party. After that, my dream of becoming a journalist was completely shattered, ”said Vu.
Government-controlled research institutes use secret methods to assess the mood of the Vietnamese people, and through this fabricated story, “they got what they wanted,” added Vu.
Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia told RFA that the Vietnamese people have been subjected to communist brainwashing campaigns for more than 70 years, dating back to the days of independence leader Ho Chi Minh as the founder of the communist North Vietnamese regime in Hanoi in 1945.
“The cult of leaders began in Ho Chi Minh through its ironic publication of ‘Telling Stories While Walking’ by Tran Dan Tien, ‘” he said.
Tran Dan Tien was the pseudonym with which Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) wrote his biography and other works.
“Such a practice [of fabrication] has continued to this day and is often hired by key opinion leaders, “said Gia.
“Doctor Khoa’s fake story is an example that reflects the fundamental nature of an authoritarian regime. There is no hope of change when deception is disguised as morality, ”he added.
The story of Doctor Khoa draws parallels to that of Le Van Tam, a hero of the French colonial days of Vietnam (1887-1945), who is said to have doused himself with gasoline and run into a gas store to burn it down.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Phan Huy Le, a historian, revealed that Tam wasn’t a real one.
Le said the story of Tam was made up by Tran Huy Lieu, a senior official during Ho Chi Minh’s August Revolution against French and Japanese colonial forces in 1945.
According to Le, Lieu told him to speak up on Tam once the country returned to stability.
RFA could not confirm whether the story of Doctor Khoa was made up by the Vietnamese government or its supporters.
Reported and translated by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Written in English by Eugene Whong.