11 July 2024

One broadcast journalist was fired and two others from separate organisations have been suspended pending investigation over their allegedly inappropriate conduct during their investigative news coverage of a respected 98-year old Buddhist monk, accused of sexual harassment.

Yesterday (Friday), the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association issued a joint statement, warning reporters and their employers to observe the professional code of ethics during their coverage of the sexual abuse allegedly committed by Luangpoo Saeng of Pa Dong Sawang Tham Temple in Pa Tiew district of Yasothon province.

The two media organisations said that they have monitored the broadcast coverage of the matter and feel that some reporters might have crossed the line of professional ethics.

The coverage sparked fierce reactions from the monk’s followers, accusing some of the reporters of being rude and showing disrespect to the monk when a number of them visited the temple in the company of Jiraphan Petkhao, a self-proclaimed crusader who has made a name of himself by exposing alleged misconduct, particularly sexual harassment, implicating monks.

The visit to the temple by reporters, police and local officials, led by Jiraphan, was in an attempt to verify a video clip on social media, purportedly featuring a woman who claims to have been sexually harassed by the elderly monk.

Followers of the monk claimed that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s and might not have been aware of what he was doing. This was confirmed by Dr. Songphol Yinsook, who treated him at the Yasothon hospital.

Jiraphan later admitted that he had asked a reporter from Workpoint News to visit the monk with one of his lawyers to look for evidence of the alleged sexual harassment, after some netizens suggested the woman in the clip looks like the reporter.

Jiraphan and his wife offered a public apology on Friday, claiming that they were given wrong information. He claimed, however, that he had not offended the monk or his secretary, but admitted he might have been verbally aggressive.

Initially, Workpoint News suspended the female reporter for seven days and later decided to fire her, as more information about the video clip, which is suspected to have been staged, was revealed.

Channel 8 TV yesterday ordered the suspension of one of its reporters for seven days, pending an investigation.

In the latest development, Channel 3 TV today announced that it had suspended one of its reporters from work for 15 days, also pending an investigation.