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Vietnamese TV Show Suspended for Moving Hanoi Into China

Screen shot of erroneous map that aired on reality TV Show. (Photo: VOA Vietnamese service)

A new reality TV show in Vietnam has been put on hold for wrongfully depicting the capital of Hanoi as being inside Chinese territory.

Also, the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea, were omitted in a map seen during the commercial announcing the new show, sparking public outcry.

Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims
Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims

State-owned Vietnam Television (VTV) has coordinated with a private company, Cat Tien Sa, to produce the show "Sabotage," in which one of the contestants is tasked with spoiling the missions of other contestants.

A senior editor of a Vietnamese daily newspaper, who wished to remain anonymous, told VOA the program's suspension illustrated the sensitivity surrounding disputes with China over the South China Sea.

"The map without the two archipelagos was dealt with seriously. It was acted upon swiftly as it is a politically sensitive issue," he said.

The government's media oversight department said the incorrect mapping triggered public speculation, violated press laws and might affect the defense of Vietnam's sovereignty.

The mishap came a few days after VTV broadcast footage showing Vietnamese activist blogger Dieu Cay sitting next to President Barack Obama at the White House last week while celebrating World Press Freedom Day.

The freelance reporter was imprisoned in 2012 for anti-state criticism but was released early and sent to the U.S. last year.

Dissident Nguyen Tien Trung, who met former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006, said he was surprised to see the blogger on Vietnamese TV screens.

"I am very pleased to see President Barack Obama meet with blogger Dieu Cay, a Vietnamese prisoner of conscience," he said. "The U.S. is very interested in promoting the human rights situation in Vietnam and has urged the ruling Communist Party to release political prisoners. The meeting obviously motivates others inside Vietnam."

Vietnamese television programs are often censored to reflect the official line of the ruling party. Observers have said VTV's increasing partnerships with private media companies to produce shows has led to material slipping past media censors.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.