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CNN apologizes over gruesome video of Thailand school massacre

Two CNN journalists were expelled from Thailand after they trespassed into a crime scene where a stabbing spree claimed the lives of two dozen children last week.

On Sunday, CNN journalists Anna Coren and Daniel Hodge were removed from their hotel by local police and were told to leave the country after officials cancelled their visas that allowed them to newsgather there.

The move came after Coren and Hodge entered a nursery in Nong Bua Lam Phu province, where a fired police officer fatally stabbed 24 children last week. Hodge, a photojournalist with CNN, filmed several blood-stained floors and other objects where the massacre occurred, while Coren narrated the scene for viewers.

Even before the news story aired, local authorities were already probing CNN after a local reporter posted an image to social media that appeared to show the crew emerging from the site. The image showed Coren holding a still camera with a microphone, while someone who resembled Hodge appeared to be climbing a fence that was cordoned off with red and white crime scene tape.

CNN journalists Anna Coren and Daniel Hodge emerge from the scene of a nursery school massacre in Thailand.
CNN journalists Anna Coren and Daniel Hodge emerge from the scene of a nursery school massacre in Thailand. (Photo courtesy Saksith Saiyasombut/Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Graphic by The Desk)

The image and the act drew strong condemnation from local officials and journalists, who said the news package contained gruesome images with no apparent news value.

“A CNN team entered a clearly marked crime scene without permission – no matter what they may claim,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand said in a statement. “This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting. It was not a scoop or an example of penetrating reporting because no other news organization, foreign or local, was prepared to behave in this unethical manner, and any one of them could have done so.”

Local police later determined that both Coren and Hodge thought they had obtained permission from guards who were near the pre-school. Coren was waived through by someone who was later found to lack the property authority to grant permission to the crime scene.

“We deeply regret any distress or offense our report may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the police at such a distressing time for the country,” Mike McCarthy, the executive vice president of CNN International, said in a statement over the weekend.

Thailand Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said Coren and Hodge agreed to pay a fine of $133 each and were ordered to leave the country. It was not clear if the volunteer who granted them permission to enter the building was disciplined as a result of the incident.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).