US news outlet CNN has apologised for its coverage of last week’s attack on a childcare centre in Thailand that left 37 people, including 23 children, dead.
Two CNN reporters entered the building where the attack took place and filmed on the premises. They were accused of trespassing and filming a crime scene without permission.
Both of them were later cleared of the charges but fined for working as journalists while on tourist visas.
CNN International’s executive vice-president and general manager Mike McCarthy said in a statement that his reporters had sought permission to enter the building, but understand that “officials were not authorised to grant this permission”. He added that CNN had since stopped broadcasting the report and removed the video from its website.
The journalists which included reporter Anna Coren and cameraman Daniel Hodge, have agreed to leave the country. They have also apologised in a video that has since been widely circulated by local news outlets. It appeared to be taken inside a police station.
“My deepest apologies… especially the families of victims of this tragedy – we are so sorry to have caused you more pain and suffering,” said Ms Coren, who along with Mr Hodge were fined 5,000 baht ($133). “We know your country is going through a painful time and we never came here to cause more grief.”
Thai police investigated the incident after journalists raised concerns. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand and Thai Journalists’ Association issued statements criticising the CNN crew for ” 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?” the statement asked.
There was also a widely shared picture on social media from the weekend that showed a CNN crew member climbing over a low fence to leave the compound. Ms Coren and Mr Hodge were later taken to the police station in Nong Bua Lam Phu province, where the attack took place, for questioning.
Two Thai ministers have said that the CNN crew did not have official permission, but the police accepted that they believed they had permission and decided not to prosecute them.
CNN said in a tweet that their crew were told by three public health officials that they could film inside. They said the premises had been cordoned off while they were inside, so they needed to climb over the fence to leave. Police found that village health volunteers had granted the team entry despite having no authority to do so, according to local news outlet The Nation.
Thailand is still in shock over the attack by a former policeman who stormed the childcare centre, killing children as young as two while they slept. Police say the 34-year-old attacker, a local named Panya Kamrab – killed his wife and his step-son, before killing himself after a manhunt. The motive for the attack is not yet known.