CNN apologizes for entering Thai massacre site, releases video


By DAVID RISING, Associated Press

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — CNN reported on the massacre of Thai preschoolers and apologized Sunday for criticism that its reporters entered the daycare center where the children were killed and filmed the crime scene without permission.

The two CNN journalists involved were fined after authorities discovered they were working in the country after entering on tourist visas, but cleared of any wrongdoing for entering the daycare center where more than 20 children were killed, Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said.

He said his investigation determined that reporters believed they had obtained permission to enter and film after being waved into the building by a volunteer or health worker, and were unaware that the person was not was not allowed to let them in.

They each agreed to pay fines of 5,000 baht ($133) and leave the country, he said.

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Both reporters apologized, as did CNN International executive vice president and general manager Mike McCarthy.

In a statement, he said his reporters had requested permission to enter the building, but the team “now understands that these officials were not authorized to grant this permission”, adding that they did not had “never intended to break the rules”.

“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 the statement tweeted by CNN.

He said CNN stopped airing the report and removed the video from its website.

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 they were reporting on the incident. Thursday’s attack by a fired police officer who authorities say massacred 36 people, 24 of them 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.

It drew 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 an initial response, 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.”

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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