CNN apologizes and pulls story after two journalists enter and film Thailand massacre site without permit
NONG BUA, THAILAND: CNN was forced to apologize and pull the plug on a story on the recent massacre of preschoolers following backlash after two journalists entered the doomed daycare center and filmed the crime scene without permission.
Deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn said the two CNN journalists involved were fined after it was found they had been working in Thailand after entering on tourist visas but were cleared of wrongdoing for entering the daycare center where more than 20 children were slain on October 6, 2022. Hakparn said his investigation had found the journalists believed they had obtained permission to enter and film the crime scene after being waved into the building by a volunteer or a health officer and were reportedly unaware that person was not authorized to allow them inside.
Both journalists apologized and agreed to pay fines of 5,000 baht ($133) and leave the country.
CNN International’s executive vice president and general manager Mike McCarthy also apologized for the incident. He said in a statement that his reporters sought permission to enter the building but the team "now understands that these officials were not authorized to grant this permission" and that it was “never their intention to contravene any rules.”
The statement added, “We deeply regret any distress or offense our report may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the police at such a distressing time for the country." McCarthy confirmed that CNN had ceased broadcasting the report and removed the video from its website.
According to the New York Post, Thai authorities started looking into the incident after a local reporter shared an image on social media of two members of the crew leaving the scene in northeastern Thailand, where they were reporting on Thursday's mass shooting carried out by a fired police officer who shot and killed 36 people, 24 of them children. One of the CNN reporters was seen crossing the low wall around the compound and climbing over police tape, while the other was already outside.
The photo sparked a backlash from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, which said it was "dismayed" by CNN's decision to film the crime scene inside. “This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting,” the FCCT declared in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Thai Journalists Association described CNN’s actions as “unethical” and “insensitive." They demanded an internal company investigation in addition to the official Thai probe.
Responding to the outrage, CNN explained in a tweet that its crew had entered the premises when the police cordon had been removed and that they were told by three public health officials exiting the building that they could film inside.
“The team gathered footage inside the center for around 15 minutes, then left,” CNN said in a statement posted on Twitter. “During this time, the cordon had been set back in place, so the team needed to climb over the fence at the center to leave.”
The mass shooting on Thursday was Thailand's worst massacre to date, drawing international attention to the small town of Uthai Sawan in the country’s rural northeast. According to the Post, a sizeable Thai media presence continued to report from the scene on Sunday, October 9.