The broadcast of CCTV footage of a murder on Thai television again raises questions about media ethics in Thailand, especially considering what they have censored instead.
The footage shows a quiet evening in the office of a car repair shop in Chon Buri descending into violence as a man suddenly stands up from his chair, pulls out a gun and shoots at two women sitting on the sofa opposite of him, later to be revealed as his fiancé and her mother. One of them immediately slumps, the other managed to run out to the door, only to collapse in front of it. The shooter follows her to the garage and walks away from the scene.
The fact that I was able to describe the scene in its gruesome detail (and omitted a lot of other details, such as the exact address of the crime scene and names of those involved) is ‘thanks’ to free-to-air Channel 3, who showed the complete footage of the murder in its entirety without any cuts or prior note of warning. The only censorship measure that was taken here was to blur the gun!
This scene shows an absurd disconnect between what has been censored and what may should have been omitted. While the blurring of firearms being drawn on people in both fictional and non-fictional programs is a regular occurrence (as is the minimal pixelation of bodies at crime scenes), it really begs the question if it was necessary to show the moments of two people’s deaths.
However, this is not the first time Thai media outlets have shown poor ethical judgment in reporting on crime stories. In February of this year the newspaper Daily News reported on a gang rape victim by fully disclosing her name and personal details, which were later removed following heavy criticism by its readers. Before that, a 12-year-old girl, freed from years of slavery and torture, was paraded almost naked by local police in front of the media to show her mutilated body – oblivious of potentially adding further trauma to her.
In general, it appears that victims of crimes in Thailand cannot expect any protection by the media as there are no apparent stop-gap between the media and police, who provide all the details (and access to the crime scenes) of the case that is then replicated in the news almost word for word.
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and freelance foreign correspondent. He writes about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and reports for international news media like Channel NewsAsia. Read his full bio on about.me/saksith.