A picture published in national broadsheet The Straits Times on 16 May about the protest in the Vietnamese-Singapore Industrial Parks, located in Vietnam, came under fire as readers charged that it could incite anti-Vietnamese sentiments in favour of the Chinese.
The picture used was from a news report on water poisoning accident which happened on 15 May, where workers from a shoe factory were reported to have been affected and had to receive medical attention. Readers have indicated that this was reported in other reputable Vietnamese news sources.
The caption by The Straits Times on its front page article, however, indicated that the image depicts 500 Chinese workers who were trapped in their dormitory as a result of the protests, which happened due to unhappiness among the Vietnamese over China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed waters near the Paracels in the South China Sea. The islands are claimed by both China and Vietnam.
Readers were irate that such an error can happen on a national newspaper, and cited concerns that it would affect tourism to Vietnam and heighten tensions in an already bad diplomatic row. Some readers, particularly on the ST Online portal, demanded that The Straits Times make necessary amendments.
In response, The Straits Times changed the image on its online portal, issued a correction note and apologised in its publication today, 17 May.
Readers have pointed out that in such a high-tension situation, The Straits Times should have been more careful in checking its sources and verifying its content.
It is not known if the publication yesterday affected readers in Vietnam or affected diplomatic relations, although the concerns expressed online appear to come mainly from readers of Vietnamese origins.