The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday advised local news stations to be extra cautious in handling reports about the stabbing spree on a Taipei MRT train on Wednesday, especially when broadcasting gory images of the victims or running detailed reports on how the crime was committed.
Local TV networks have run extensive coverage of the random knife attack — from background information about the suspect, Cheng Chieh (鄭捷), to the accounts of the survivors. Many have expressed concern that the intense media attention may spark more panic or encourage copycats. Greater Kaohsiung police yesterday arrested a man named Wang Tien-yi (王天翼) after he stated on an Internet forum, using the alias “mozaiwen” (莫再問),” that he wanted to follow Cheng’s example.
Some claiming to be fans of Cheng have also set up a Facebook page to show support for his action. In response, the Taipei City Police Department said that those posting comments supporting Cheng or wishing to emulate him were already violating the law and may be called in for questioning.
Photo: Huang Liang-chieh, Taipei Times
Huang Chin-yi (黃金益), director of the commission’s communication content department, said that many lawmakers and viewers have indicated that they were horrified by the reports about the killings and hoped that news stations would refrain from excessively reporting about the incident.
“We have been monitoring TV news reports since the incident happened,” Huang said. “So far, local networks have exercised restraint in reporting about the incident and have not done so at the expense of other equally important news. In displaying images of the victims killed on the train, they have also covered the blood with pixels.”
Huang said that TV news stations knew that they were supposed to follow self-disciplinary guidelines on reporting stipulated by the Satellite Television Broadcasting Association, which states that reporters should avoid oversensationalizing an event and turning the suspect into a hero.
Reporters are not supposed to conduct interviews of victims or family members of the victims without first securing their consent, based on the guidelines.
Mental health professionals advised people who may be emotionally susceptible to refrain from watching reports about the incident.
“They are likely to exhibit symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder after viewing the gory pictures over and over again,” said Liu Tsung-hsien (劉宗憲), chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Taipei City Hospital Songde Branch. “They may feel depressed and have difficulty sleeping. They may also become paranoid and afraid to take the MRT.”
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