Vietnamese television journalist blasted for fashionable appearance in Syria documentary
Le Binh (wearing a pink T-shirt) and her team pose with Syrian government soldiers in this photo posted on one of the crew members' Facebook on July 8, 2016.
The coverage, entitled “News Feature Story on Syria – A View from Inside the Conflict,” which aired on VTV24 on July 23, told audiences how lead journalist Le Binh, a cameraman and two other reporters had experienced the ongoing conflicts in the West Asian country.
During the 33-minute program, Binh, who is also VTV24’s director, detailed how her team had cheated death on three occasions during their time in Syria.
However, two of the three stories have been doubted by local viewers as either exaggerated or completely staged using inaccurate information concerning what is really going on in the war-torn country.
Many viewers also questioned the credibility of the program generally, with Binh donning fashionable clothes, including various brightly-colored T-shirts and hats, and even sunglasses while she was walking through the rubble of destroyed homes or reporting from inside a secret tunnel used by government forces.
Critics also said that the reporting contained far too much emotion instead of facts. Binh appears too often, is seen crying and being startled by gunfire many times throughout the war-themed documentary. The narrative tone of the report is also criticized as "overly pathetic."
According to , a newswire run by the Ministry of Information and Communications, one Vietnamese Facebook user named Kim Nhu Hoang has provided a detailed analysis proving that Binh’s claims of having cheated death three times in Syria were false on two occasions.
Less than three minutes into the report, Le Binh is seen walking on a deserted street in the city of Homs, pointing to the west saying “on that side, the Islamic State is still in control.”
According to Hoang, the western side of Homs is currently controlled by opposition forces including the FSA and Al-Nusra, but not IS.
“And the inner-city of Homs is in a near peaceful situation now, despite the rubble,” he wrote.
The second occurrence of “facing death,” as reported by the feature, was when a bomb placed inside a Catholic church in the town of Maaloula exploded just 30 minutes after the VTV24 team had left.
This detail is refuted as inaccurate by Hoang as there was no report of a bomb explosion at a church during July, when the documentary was produced.
The last time the team supposedly faced death was when they were inside an underground tunnel in Jobar, an area some 2km northeast of the Syrian capital of Damascus, when a hail of bullets, which Binh said came from a rebel force, fired on them.
There are also scenes showing tanks firing in the report, which raises doubts as to whether most of the documentary was filmed in safe areas with no ongoing conflicts.
“It is like a video diary of an adventurous trip to a conflict-hit area, rather than a war documentary from the Middle East,” wrote, quoting another Facebook users comment.
Under increasing pressure from the public, Binh and her VTV24 team held a press conference on Wednesday in the hope of silencing their critics.
Binh admitted that they had picked up “non-professional clothing” for the trip, but added that the local man who guided them around Syria said that “Homs is a safe area where you can wear anything you want.”
Addressing the question as to why the scenes showing her crying were not cut during editing, Binh said the feature report “had to be embedded with emotions.”
“We knew people would say that we were ‘acting’ then, but omitting those scenes would have reduced the credibility of our report,” Binh said.
“We kept those scenes as those were our real feelings no matter what people say.”
As for those who doubt the number of times they cheated death in Syria, Binh said they have evidence for all three cases.
Despite the title given to the program “from inside the conflict,” Binh said at the press meeting that the main goal of their trip was to interview people, including victims and government soldiers.
There are in fact some scenes of tanks firing and of gunfights, which Binh claims were all real.
“So you think we, a media team from Vietnam, could ask the Syrian defense force to set up those fight scenes for us?” she asked the assembled media.
Binh said she would never return to Syria, “as long as conflict remains there.”
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