during a ceremony for those killed in the attack on the Young Children

CNN Crew Leaves Thailand Following Controversy Over Coverage of Day Care Center Attack

October 11, 2022
3 mins read

BANGKOK — Two journalists with CNN left Thailand Monday after authorities accused them of using tourist visas to enter the country while covering the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting that left nearly 40 adults and children dead.

Anna Coren, 47, and Daniel Hodge, 34, faced widespread criticism for recording a video segment inside a day care center in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lam Phu, where dozens of children were killed by an ex-police officer in a gun and knife attack.

Authorities said the journalists had inappropriately entered an active crime scene without permission and were initially reported to be investigated over the allegations.

A family of a victim mourns as they bring a blanket and a baby bottle during a ceremony for those killed in the attack on the Young Children's Development Center in Uthai Sawan, Thailand, Oct. 7, 2022.
A family of a victim mourns as they bring a blanket and a baby bottle during a ceremony for those killed in the attack on the Young Children’s Development Center in Uthai Sawan, Thailand, Oct. 7, 2022.

Thailand’s deputy national police chief, Surachate Hakparn, has since said both reporters have been cleared of any misconduct but were fined $133 (5,000 baht) and agreed to leave the country, The Associated Press reported.

The journalists were scheduled to fly to Hong Kong, and sources say they were not blacklisted by Thailand’s immigration authorities, Thai PBS reported.

Background shooting

On Thursday, ex-police officer Panya Kamrab killed at least 38 people, including 24 children, in an attack that began at the childcare center in the town of Uthai Sawan. Victims of the killing spree included children under five years of age and a woman who was eight months’ pregnant.

Local authorities said the gunman had been fired from the police force earlier this year and was at the time facing trial over drug charges. Following the attacks, the 34-year-old killed his wife and stepson before committing suicide.

Although mass shootings are rare in Thailand, last week’s incident was the worst of its kind in the country’s history. The massacre has caused grief throughout Thailand, and although funeral proceedings have begun, the victims’ families are still trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.

The deadly event has been a major story worldwide and been covered by local and international media since the news broke.

Meanwhile, a photo has circulated on social media, showing the CNN reporters leaving the day care center, with one of the crew climbing over a cordoned off fence. The image caused local outrage from Thai netizens and alerted authorities to the alleged breach of the crime scene by the journalists.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) released a statement at the time saying it was “dismayed” that the journalists didn’t obtain permission while entering the scene. The FCCT said the journalists did so in an “unprofessional” manner and committed “a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting.”

In response, a CNN statement said both reporters had been given permission by either a volunteer or health officer to enter the care center, unaware that the person wasn’t permitted to do so.

The journalists were later escorted to a local police station and questioned before being fined and stripped of their visitor visas.

Anna Coren

Anna Coren, an Australian journalist who joined CNN in 2008, apologized in a video posted to Twitter.

“I would like to offer my deepest apologies to the people of Thailand, especially the families of the victims of this tragedy,” Coren said. “We are so sorry if we’ve caused you more pain and suffering; that was never our intention. We would also like to apologize to the Thai police and to the deputy police chief for the inconvenience that we have caused.”

Mike McCarthy, executive vice president of CNN International, released a statement it was never any intention to contravene any rules and the network “deeply regret any distress” the report may have caused.

The video segment both journalists produced in the day care center has since been pulled from broadcasting and removed from CNN’s website.

‘Parachute journalism’

Part of CNN’s now-removed video showed the day care center still marred with blood-stained floors, which drew criticism for its insensitivity to the situation.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a veteran journalist with Khaosod English, an online media outlet, said “gruesome” photos being published by local Thai media were once considered the norm, but today practices have changed.

“Things have changed since then, and the tendency now is to avoid running disturbing photos of crime and accident victims,” Pravit told VOA. “CNN parachuting in and caught in picture crossing the cordoned area of the crime, thus became a big issue and a reminder of the unresolved debate among the Thai press as to what’s fit for print.”

Phansasiri Kularb, a journalism lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said “parachute journalism,” a practice of sending reporters to places where they have limited knowledge, has its benefits. The purpose of such reporting is “to produce well-round[ed], multi-perspectival coverage,” Phansasiri said,

Phansasiri, however, noted the drawbacks.

“If journalists do not have much knowledge about the region, situation or political contexts, and only focus on getting stories out by disregarding social sentiments and the complexity of the conflict — their presence tends to cause further harms, tension and misunderstandings rather than presenting useful facts for the public,” the lecturer told VOA.

This is not the first time CNN has come under criticism in Southeast Asia.

In April 2021, a CNN crew interviewed Myanmar citizens during the height of mass protests after last year’s military coup there. Later, local authorities arrested 11 people as a result of the interviews given to the news organization.

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