CNN sparks outrage in Thailand over entering nursery crime scene

Bangkok, Oct 9 (EFE).- American news channel CNN sparked condemnation and outrage from the Thai public and journalist organizations on Sunday after filming inside the cordoned-off nursery where a former police officer killed dozens in a gun and knife massacre.

“Unimaginable suffering from #ThailandMassacre @CNN speaks to families of the victims,” CNN correspondent Anna Coren tweeted Saturday along with a link to a news clip in which she speaks into the camera from inside the nursery, pointing out blood on floors and on children’s belongings. The clip prompted dozens of angry comments and backlash.

Coren and a camera operator were photographed by another journalist climbing over the crime scene cordon around the fence of the nursery in northeastern Nong Bua Lamphu province.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) late Saturday night released a statement saying a “CNN team entered a clearly marked crime scene without permission – no matter what they may claim. This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting.”

“It was not a scoop or an example of penetrating reporting because no other news organization, foreign or local, was prepared to behave in this unethical manner, and any one of them could have done so.

“Thailand has been traumatized by this tragedy and there has been wide concern all along that inappropriate images should not be made public in traditional and social media. Simple respect for the deceased and their families is but one of the reasons,” it added, asking: “Would one of their crews have behaved in the same way at a serious crime scene in the United States?”

In response, CNN’s public relations department tweeted a statement saying the reporters were filming at the nursery “when the center’s police cordon had been removed,” and that “three public health officials exiting the building spoke to the team and told them they could film inside.”

It added that they gathered footage for 15 minutes and had to climb over the fence of the center to leave as the cordon “had been set back in place.”

The Thai Journalists Association said in a late-night statement that it had “received numerous complaints from members of the public” that CNN had entered “a clearly marked crime scene,” which it labeled “a seriously flawed decision that no professional media should have taken.”

Relatives of the victims of a massacre at a children’s care center, perform belief ceremonies to invite souls to leave the crime scene, at a children care center in Nong Bua Lamphu province, northeastern Thailand, 09 October 2022. EPA-EFE/NARONG SANGNAK

“While CNN maintained that its news team ‘was allowed inside,’ reports from local media quote multiple officials denying that any permission was given in the first place.”

It added that the outlet aired “graphic material without a clear appeal to public interest that may cause distress to the audience in a nation that very recently suffered a traumatic tragedy, especially among the families and loved ones of the victims,” and demanded answers over the incident.

Police were on Sunday taking the journalists to have their visas revoked before questioning them after the mayor of Uthai Sawan, where the massacre took place, filed a report against them for trespassing on the crime scene without permission, according to local news outlet The Reporters.

It added that immigration police found they had entered the country on tourist visas but came to work, and indicated that the pair would be expelled from the country.

Meanwhile, Buddhist funeral rites continued Sunday in three temples of Uthai Sawan for relatives and friends of the victims to farewell their loved ones.

The perpetrator of the massacre, in which 37 were killed including 22 children, was identified as Panya Kamrarb, a 34-year-old former police officer who was arrested for methamphetamine possession and expelled from the force.

Early Thursday afternoon he burst into the nursery and carried out the attack, killing mostly children while they were napping, authorities said.

He then fled in a white pickup truck, sparking a manhunt, and went to his house where he murdered his wife and son before committing suicide.

Among the fatalities in the nursery, which catered for children from the age of two to five, was a pregnant teacher. Another 15 were wounded, eight of them seriously. EFE

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