Television network CNN has come under heavy fire in Thailand after a team from the US news channel filmed without permission in a daycare where a former police officer last week butchered 36 people, including 24 children.
CNN correspondent Anna Coren and her colleague Daniel Hodge claimed they had permission from some officials. But an image by a Thai journalist on social media shows them climbing over the fence around the shelter, which had clearly been cordoned off by the police.
In a news item broadcast by CNN, they showed pools of blood and blood-stained walls in the room where two- and three-year-old children were stabbed to death. Many Thais reacted with dismay.
CNN said on Twitter that the police cordon had been temporarily opened. “The team collected images at the shelter for about 15 minutes and then left,” CNN said. “At that time it was closed again, so the team had to climb over the fence in the middle to leave.”
The tweet was in response to criticism from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), which said it was “dismayed” by CNN’s coverage and the decision to film the crime scene. “This was unprofessional and a serious violation of journalistic ethics in crime reporting,” the FCCT said.
The two reporters had entered Thailand on a tourist visa. They were taken from their hotel in Udon Thani by police and taken to the police station in Nongbua Lamphu, the site of the massacre.
The pair faced five years in prison. But after making Thai-style apologies in a video that police distributed, they were fined for working on a tourist visa. However, the police did not charge them with misconduct, as the pair said they filmed inside assuming they had permission.
The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) criticized CNN’s actions as “unethical” and “insensitive” and called for an internal company investigation into the incident in addition to the official Thai investigation.
In a later statement, Mike McCarthy, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CNN International, reiterated that his reporters had requested permission to enter the building, but the team “now understands that these officials were not authorized to grant this permission.” He added that it was not their intent to break any rules.
He said that CNN had stopped broadcasting and removed the video from its website. “We deeply regret any distress or violations that our broadcast may have caused, and any inconvenience caused to the police at such a poignant time for the country,” he said in the statement tweeted by CNN.
It is not uncommon for Thai media to publish inappropriate images of violence and abuse and major strides have been made in recent years to address this issue.
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