As media outlets get carried away with sensational news on the Internet and become overly reactive about their popularity ratings, several academics yesterday voiced a note of caution.
Speaking at a forum organised by Chulalongkorn University, experts in their respective fields warned that too much coverage of sensational news could backfire and hurt people's rights to receive well-rounded and unbiased information.
The recent murder allegedly committed by a heavily tattooed, attractive girl has captured the attention of media outlets inside in the country and internationally.
The prime suspect, Priyanuch "Preaw" Nonwangchai, has become an Internet sensation, with media reports focusing not only on the investigation into the case but also on her private life, friends, adversaries and her expressions of "gratitude" to her family by sending them large amounts of money.
Saturated with "Preaw" coverage 24 hours a day, netizens have raised doubts about the media's responsibility to reflect and help shape social values, especially as teenage girls have started expressing feelings idolising Priyanuch.
"Selling one-dimensional news can imply that media underestimate members of public," mass communication expert Munyat Akarachantachote said.
"This will only further distance the media from the public and harm people's rights to access fair information."
Munyat said it was understandable that media outlets had to make profits from their operations, but added that they should rather focus on qualitative aspects to uphold ethics and to differentiate themselves from viral news spread by various sources on the Internet.
"Don't focus on the personal, sensational secrets so that you lose sight of the overall picture and what will benefit society," she said.
Criminal law expert Pareena Srivanich said reporting could also affect criminal proceedings.
While some reports might help trigger social awareness about the case and enable members of the public to help in the investigation, other reports could serve to alert culprits.
"Reporting on the case can also bring social judgement to a case, which could cause officers involved in justice process to be biased," she said.
"It can also bring harm to defendants, who should be legally protected as long as there has not been a final indictment."
Adult psychiatrist Puchong Laurujisawat added that reporting should be cautious to not automatically brand any defendant as having psychological problems or being mentally challenged.
He said that could create a bias against innocent people suffering those conditions.