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Media must introspect and learn from cave mission: experts

Jul 11. 2018
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THAI JOURNALISTS need to improve their working standards and learn to respect professional ethics, media experts said yesterday after many outlets were criticised for their “unethical” news coverage of the Tham Luang rescue operation.

At a seminar entitled “Lessons to Learn from Media Coverage at Tham Luang Cave”, arranged by the Thai Journalists Association, journalists were urged to focus on accuracy and credible reporting with proper |ethical guidelines and a code of |conduct in covering emergency situations.

Speakers suggested that media associations and related agencies should play a more progressive role in regulating the media, as some outlets not only did not accept and apologise for their unethical reporting, but kept repeating their wrongdoings.

Warat Karuchit, mass media and communications academic at the National Institute of Development Administration, said the public backlash against media coverage on the mission to save 13 trapped footballers from the flooded cave in Chiang Rai was something journalists should learn from to improve their reporting and adapt to the changing media landscape.

“Despite the challenges of reporting on the rescue operation at the Tham Luang cave, Thai journalists did a good job and played an important role in supporting the mission until all the trapped survivors were safely rescued,” Warat said. “But it cannot be denied that they also failed in many aspects of reporting news with responsibility and ethics.”

He said that after closely observing coverage during the 17 days of the rescue operation, it was obvious that Thai media still has problems. Some do not respect journalistic ethics, do not report news constructively, ignore their mistakes and have an inefficient regulation mechanism, he said.

He urged media outlets to improve their news reporting policy, from prioritising breaking news and reporting emotional news to earn higher ratings to concentrating on accurate and informative news.

“The recent public criticisms over unethical and harmful reporting indicate that people now have more awareness about news consumption and the habits of news audiences are changing. Reporters can no longer keep their old habits of getting and reporting news anymore,” he emphasised.

He also suggested that there should be a regulating body such as a media ombudsman to ensure that journalists will have a clear code of conduct and ethical guidelines to ensure professional reporting.

Korkhet Chantalertluk, news department director at Thai PBS, said one of the lessons learned from the Tham Luang rescue operation was the need for reporters to show sensitivity during emergency situations. 

He said this is essential to ensure that reporters in the field perform their duties properly and do not harm the operation or news sources. 

“We have learned from working on reporting rescue operations |that cooperation and good understanding between officers and journalists is important for news coverage in emergency situations,” Korkhet said.

“We have learned that sometimes aggressive questioning by journalists can demoralise the officers, while the policy to keep reporters away from the operation area and brief them only at official press conferences made their jobs more difficult,” Korkhet added.

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