Four Thai media organizations have complained over the media’s coverage of the murder of two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.
The first problem was that the tourists were identified by name in the Thai press before their families were notified about their deaths, Asian Correspondent reported Sept. 15. The outlets that named the victims included The Nation, ThaiPBS English, Post Today, Thai Rath, Krungthep Turakij and ASTV/Manager, according to Asian Correspondent. One of the outlets, ASTV/Manager also published their passport photos.
If this were not bad enough, photos of their corpses were shared on social media. Witheridge’s mother “begged” for the photos to be removed, the UK Mirror reported last month. “Our family have been further traumatised by reports that there are numerous unnecessary and senseless photographs circulating across the Internet,” the family said.
In an Oct. 27 statement, posted on Facebook, (read below) the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, the National Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Thai Journalists Association pleaded with the media to abide by journalism ethics standards.
The organizations said the invasion of privacy by the media in reporting on the tourists’ death “sparked criticism from both domestic and international society on the role of Thai journalists in overing such crime stories.” The organizations said the invasive reporting “by some of Thai media … seems to have violated the victims’ rights and caused greater sorrow to the victims’ family and relatives.”
“The effect that may cause to the victims and family should be highly considered prior to the publication of photos and crime news, as it is a very sensitive issue,” the four organizations wrote. “The publication of graphic pictures of the victims and dissemination of personal information can have traumatic impact on the feelings of the family of the victims. Therefore, media should be cautious in disseminating such photos and news stories, and should respect the feeling of the victims’ family.”
The four journalism organizations aren’t alone. Mark Kent, the British Ambassador to Thailand, also called for the media “to respect the privacy of tourists and their families.”
In a blogpost on the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website, the photos of WItheridge and Miller’s passport were called “very distressing” and the media was asked to withhold publication of invasive personal information.
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“It is very distressing to see pictures of the passports of those who have lost their lives posted on media and social media,” Kent wrote. “These contain personal information and add no value to any news story. Personal information and details of victims of crime or accidents should not be passed to the media, nor published by them.”
Kent went on,
“It is especially upsetting if families learn details via the media before they have been informed themselves – the police and authorities must be responsible to ensure this is respected. Nor does anyone gain from seeing graphic pictures. We can only imagine how distressing this is for the families of those who have lost their loved ones here in Thailand. And families should be left to grieve at a time of emotional distress, rather than be subject to media harassment.”
He also pointed out that gratuitous media coverage may hamper the police investigation and trial of the pair’s attacker or attackers.
“Equally media should not act in a way which could be prejudicial to the right to a fair trial of those accused,” Kent wrote. “These are questions of ethics and respect. But they will also help strengthen the media in Thailand, and maintain its reputation as a hospitable destination for foreigners.”
Kent also called for the Thai media to “agree on a voluntary code to regulate conduct.”
Last year, iMediaEthics reported on criticism of Bangkok’s the Daily News, which published the name and photo of a Scottish woman who was a victim of gang rape while on vacation in Thailand. The Daily News removed the photo and identifying information of the woman after criticism.
iMediaEthics has written to the Thai Broadcast Journalists’ Association and the Thai Journalists Association for more information.
Hat Tip: Ethical Journalism Network