Unethical reporting has been cited for hampering the rescue operation to save 13 trapped footballers from a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, as some reporters broke the law and the rights of their news sources to get the latest stories.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, the rescue mission chief, yesterday issued a stern warning to the media over the illegal issues and ordered an investigation after one news agency flew a drone over the area, while another reportedly got access to the police radio frequency and broadcast communications.
Narongsak stressed that flying a drone in the area without permission and unauthorised access of the police radio frequency were clear violations of law and said the police were now investigating the incidents and searching for those involved.
Although he did not mention the news agencies by name, PPTV and Workpoint have released statements of apology and promised that they will not repeat these wrongdoings.
Warat Karuchit, a lecturer at Thammasat University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that people should not only blame the journalists in the field for their harmful news reporting, but they should put pressure on their editorial teams, media outlet owners and media sponsors.
"As everyone is criticising the on-site reporters for their unethical ways to get the news, most people do not turn to their bosses and sponsors, who order these reporters to compete with other news outlets with fresher and more exciting news in order to get more ratings," Warat said.
"Reporters in the field can be considered as another victim of the fierce competition among news agencies for ratings and are also forced to do harmful and unethical news coverage by their bosses, so the public should instead put more pressure on the policy makers at these news outlets."
He suggested that editorial teams and the owners of all media agencies should set up proper news reporting standards for every journalist and make sure that they are forbidden to report the news unethically.
He also urged the journalists' associations to draft good-reporting standards and set up a punishment for violations of journalistic ethics.
"The people have the power to campaign on this issue, as we can boycott unethical news outlets and their sponsors anytime, which will seriously affect their income from ratings," Warat said.
He released the statement alongside more than 450 people under the banner of "The People Network for Journalistic Ethic". They demanded that journalists and their media outlets follow their profession's code of ethics strictly while covering the news about the rescue of the trapped team members in Tham Luang cave and respect the rights of their news sources.
The statement also asked all people to unsubscribe the news agencies that violate the ethical code and urged them to carefully consume the news to avoid unintentionally spreading fake news and harmful news reports.