A HOT TOPIC this week online proved that social-media etiquette and journalistic ethics should be a top priority in Thailand.
The issue involved the saga of two celebrities – singer Pakin “Tono” Khamwilaisuk and actress Pattaratida “Tangmo” Patcharaveerapong.
It all kicked off on Monday night, when Paeza Pichaipusit (paezaa_pb) posted photographs and a video clip on Instagram of the actress in a hospital emergency room being treated for allegedly overdosing on sleeping pills. The clip, captioned “I now believe my friend really worships love … so much so that she could trade her life for Tono”, immediately went viral.
And as soon as users began pressing “like”, “share” or “comment”, other media jumped on the story and began spinning it for public consumption, which is when the subject of social media etiquette and journalistic ethics came up.
Banyong Suwanpong, a member of the Thai Journalists Association’s ethics committee, said on Facebook that Pattaratida’s friend had crossed the line by posting such photographs and clips, adding that though it was done out of goodwill, Paeza obviously did not realise that he had hurt his friend.
However, the question of other media, especially those in the entertainment industry, who grabbed these photos and clips and re-broadcast them on their news channels was totally different.
Even though Pattaratida is a public figure, spreading improper photographs and clips of her via mass media like this is likely to aggravate her distress, he said.
In a post on the Journalism Ethics Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jr.ethics) under the topic “Taking photos in hospital vs legal issues”, Banyong raised several pertinent issues.
He reminded people that according to Article 7 of the 2007 National Health Act, a patient’s personal information cannot be disclosed under any circumstances – not even under the 2007 Information Act. In addition, he reminded people that Article 9 of the National Health Act specifies that health information remains confidential under all circumstances until instructed otherwise. The punishment for violating this law is six months in prison and/or a fine of Bt10,000.
Also media outlets that picked up and re-posted online photographs and clips showing Pattaratida being treated in hospital might be considered as having violated the Computer Crimes Act.
On Tuesday, the actress issued a statement, apologising to the hospital for her friend’s mistake. The following day, Pakin delivered a statement, blaming himself for the drama, saying this happened because he announced on stage that he was single again and said he wanted his ex to be strong and that he did not intend to hurt her.
While he was delivering this statement, @Ajboom tweeted: “At 5.22pm, there are more than 70,000 viewers on #ThaiRathTV’s YouTube channel. Social media timelines are flooded with scenes of Pakin’s press statement, with thousands of people watching.”
The level-headed sort responded to this with sarcasm, saying this story had become more of a national agenda than the severe drought that has hit the country, while some users opted for mimicry by creating illustrations of world leaders intently watching the singer give his statement.
Though this story has been a hot topic all this week, it will soon be replaced with the latest issue. However, the issue of online etiquette and journalism ethics will remain a controversial point for a long time to come.