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Police plan action against CNN for entering mass shooting scene

A CNN team is seen on Saturday climbing over the fence of the childcare centre in Na Klang district of Nong Bua Lamphu, the main crime scene of the massacre.

Police will take legal action against a CNN crew for entering the crime scene of the mass shooting in Nong Bua Lamphu province, deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn has said, after its news coverage drew strong opposition from media organisations in the country.

Nong Bua Lamphu police were studying the CNN coverage on Saturday from inside the childcare centre, as the crime scene was cordoned off to allow police to compile evidence, Pol Gen Surachate said on Saturday night.

The deputy chief said the CNN crew members would be charged with entering state offices without authorisation and possibly trying to tamper with the evidence to be used in the case if police find sufficient grounds to press the charges against them.

The trespassing charge alone has a maximum jail term of five years.

The daycare centre in tambon Uthai Sawan in Na Klang district is operated by the tambon administration organisation. Sacked Pol Sgt Panya Khamrab killed 36 people, 24 of them children sleeping at the centre on Thursday, before the gunman killed himself.

A screen capture shows the CNN report from inside the childcare.centre.

The CNN report came from inside the crime scene and a photo taken by a Thai journalist showed the team climbing over the fence out of the centre.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) and Thai Journalists Association (TJA) issued separate statements on Saturday night strongly criticising CNN for its coverage.

The FCCT said it was dismayed by CNN’s actions.

“A CNN team entered a clearly-marked crime scene without permission – no matter what they may claim,” the club said. “This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting.”

“Would one of their crews have behaved in the same way at a serious crime scene in the United States?” it asked.

The TJA called the CNN coverage “unethical” and “insensitive” as it could set a precedent for other media outlets to follow.

CNN said that its crews were allowed to enter the centre by three public health officials when the police cordon had been removed.

The crews had to climb the fence on their way back after 15 minutes of filming because yellow tape was reinstalled, it added.

But the TJA argued that CNN should have used professional judgement, even if, as it claimed, permission was granted.

“CNN’s action therefore amounts to an intrusion into a major crime scene, a seriously flawed decision that no professional media should have taken – even if permission was indeed granted, the news crew and those responsible for their assignment should have exercised their judgment and refrained from entering a crime scene,” the TJA said.

The Thai journalists’ club said Thai media outlets denied that permission to enter the crime scene was given.

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