CNN crew fined leaving Thailand in cover of daycare attack
By DAVID RISING, Associated Press
UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — Thai authorities on Sunday fined two CNN reporters for working in the country on tourist visas, but cleared them of any wrongdoing for entering the daycare center where more than 20 children were massacred, claiming they had filmed inside believing they had obtained permission.
Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said the journalists had been asked to enter the building by a volunteer or a health worker, but was unaware that the person was not authorized to let them in.
They each agreed to pay fines of 5,000 baht ($133) and leave the country after admitting to working despite entering Thailand on tourist visas, he said.
Authorities began investigating the incident after a Thai journalist posted an image on social media of two crew members leaving the scene in northeast Thailand where a fired police officer massacred on Thursday 36 people, including 24 children. One CNN crew member was seen scaling the low wall and fence around the compound, over the police tape, and the other already outside.
CNN tweeted that the crew entered the premises when the police cordon was removed from the center and three public health officials exiting the building said they could film inside.
“The team gathered footage inside the center for about 15 minutes and then left,” CNN said in its tweet. “By this time the cordon had been put back in place, so the team had to scale the fence in the center to leave.”
The tweet came in response to criticism from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, which said it was “appalled” by CNN’s coverage and the decision to film the crime scene indoors.
“It was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in reporting crimes,” the FCCT said.
The Thai Journalists Association 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, CNN International Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike McCarthy reiterated that his reporters had requested permission to enter the building, but the team “now understands that these officials were not not allowed to grant that permission,” adding that it was “never their intention to break the rules.
He said CNN stopped airing the report and removed the video from its website.
“We deeply regret any distress or offense our report may have caused, and any inconvenience caused to police at such a distressing time for the country,” he said in a statement tweeted by CNN.
As the worst such massacre in Thailand, the attack drew international media attention to the small town of Uthai Sawan in the country’s rural northeast. As of Sunday, few remained but a slew of Thai media continued to report from the scene.
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