Last night’s Bhoja air crash was a tragedy that has affected the entire nation. Unfortunately, once again the media has exacerbated the tragedy through irresponsible and insensitive reporting.
Geo reported that Benazir Bhutto International Airport would be closed for two days, only to have their report followed by the Civil Aviation Authority reporting that the airport was reopened. Geo quickly changed their report without noting that they were correcting the previous report, further causing confusion as different people read the same report only to learn different things.
Gruesome images were broadcast on multiple channels. Pictures of body parts, pieces of jewelry, panicked, screaming people. Those who were holding onto their last prayer for the safety of their loved ones were forced to learn of their despair from a cameraman zooming in on a bangle, a bloody arm. Names of the victims were broadcast on TV so that some people were shocked to learn of their relatives death from an SMS before they even knew of the tragedy.
The most gruesome, however, was the way some elements of the media jumped on the opportunity to turn the tragedy into an opportunity for cheap political point scoring.
Dunya TV anchor Mubasher Lucman bizarrely criticised Rehman Malik for quickly responding to the crash “when he is not asked”, as if the Interior Minister should wait to be asked before responding to such a tragedy.
Of course, had the Minister been slow to respond, Mubasher probably would have criticised him for that, too.
The News (Jang Group) quickly followed suit, publishing a front page article reporting that ‘Political pressure allowed Bhoja Air to relaunch’. The article is based on statements of unnamed ‘sources’ who are not even being from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or officials in any capacity whatsoever. Another front page article in The News reported that Bhoja Air was granted a license despite being a defaulter of Rs.6.9 million owed to the CAA.
Both claims were contradicted by DG CAA the same day, suggesting that Jang Group’s reporters merely repeated the claims of their unknown ‘sources’ without taking the trouble to pick up the phone and request comment from CAA before rushing off to file their reports.
DG CAA Nadeem Yousafzai told reporters that the aircraft’s ‘black box’ could take a month to decode. While we might want answers sooner than this, the answers we want are the facts – not rumours, speculation, and cheap political points. A month is not too long to wait. If anyone is found to be responsible through either action or inaction, they should be held accountable. But until the investigation is complete, the media should restrain itself from making all manner of unfounded allegations, even those based on the statements of unknown and unnamed ‘sources’.
Following a senseless tragedy such as this, the nation is heartbroken. Healing will take time and the knowledge of what went wrong so that we know it will be prevented in the future. Through irresponsible and insensitive reporting, the media is pulling on our wounded heart strings and making a bad situation even worse.