It is not everyday that The Straits Times is accused of making stories up. (Looking at you Lianhe Wanbao and AsiaOne.)
But playing up a fake story that is perpetuated all over the world? Well, that's a first.
It now appears that the story -- picked up and published in ST on Dec. 24 -- about Kim Jong-un having his uncle eaten by 120 wild dogs as a rather outlandish way to execute someone might in fact have no basis in reality.
Here's how the falsehood went:
1. The original dog-eating story was a "tweet" on the Tencent Weibo microblogging platform by someone with the user name Pyongyang Choi Seongho.
He claims to be someone studying in Beijing and is an editor at a North Korean newspaper and has 40,000 followers.
But this account is suspect because the background picture of the account is a cartoon of Kim Jong-un showing his middle finger.
2. Moreover, this Pyongyang Choi Seongho user appears to have been inspired by someone who runs the Chinese Sina Weibo Choi Seongho account on Sina Weibo, which has two million followers.
However, many observers have noted that this Chinese Sina Weibo Choi Seongho account is satirical.
3. A Dec. 12 article in Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong-based newspaper supportive of the Chinese government, subsequently published the execution by dogs story. They even embedded the tweet by Pyongyang Choi Seongho.
The best part? Wen Wei Po, as a newspaper, consistently ranks way low in studies of the different credibility ratings of Hong Kong newspapers. In other words, it is not even credible.
No, no wait. Ok, so here is the best part: [quip float="pqright"]The story published in ST, therefore, stemmed from a lousy Hong Kong story based on a suspicious tweet by someone anonymous, who is most probably inspired by satire[/quip].
This kick started and perpetuated the whole execution by dog hullabaloo around the world, where media in Europe and America picked it up because they trusted ST wouldn't get it wrong.
And why were the rest of the world so confident?
Because the ST story was written by Ching Cheong, a celebrated senior writer at Singapore's national English broadsheet, who is an expert on China.
Ching is best known for being imprisoned for more than 1,000 days from April 2005 to February 2008, having been detained by the People's Republic of China on allegations of spying for Taiwan.
He even wrote a book about it.
So far, ST has remained silent and has not issued an apology.
We're still waiting.
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