Journalism ethics: social media Tweets a lesson to its electronic counterpart
As a relative of a Bhoja Air crash victim mourns, television reporters thrust their mikes in his face to get some ‘sensational sobs’.
KARACHI – While the electronic media broadcasted special programmes on the tragic Bhoja Air crash, criticising the airline administration, government authorities and other airliner companies for the second day running, on the social front, celebrities, senior journalists and intellectuals vehemently disapproved of the television channels live coverage of graphic scenes at the crash site.
There were no survivors as the Bhoja Air flight B737-200 travelling from Karachi to Islamabad carrying 121 passengers and six crew members crashed near the Islamabad airport on Friday evening.
After the news broke, private television channels raced to the scene broadcasting live coverage of the crash site, showing the aircraft wreckage, the blood splattered around and even the body parts of the victims strewn all over the place.
On the micro-blogging platform of Twitter, many people tweeted under the media hashtag (#Media), about the electronic media’s irresponsible behaviour and tried to remind the Pakistani channels of the journalistic ethics regarding any news story.
Those on another famous social networking website, Facebook, were also vocal about the trend of showing graphic content by the private television channels to grab viewers.
On Twitter, Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy suggested that the media should only be allowed till a specific area of the incident and briefed by the officials concerned.
She also said that the crash site should have been cordoned off by the authorities.
“There are ways to cover a plane crash or any other tragedy, for which sensitive training is desperately needed and we [media persons] must have some ethics,” tweeted Chinoy.
One of her friends’ mother was also onboard the doomed airplane.
Criticising the “notorious” question of television journalists right after any tragedy about how the victims’ family members feel, the ‘Saving Face’ co-director tweeted: “Give the poor families some time to process… its barely been an hour since the plane crashed; why are you asking how they feel… obviously, devastated.”
She added: “Showing dead bodies is not news or journalism and news organisations need training on sensitivity and humanity.”
The filmmaker was of the view that producers in newsrooms need extra training. “Stop forcing your journalists to get images of dead bodies,” she said.
Chinoy said that there is no “news” in dead bodies and animated images of a plane crashing on television. “For goodness sake have a bloody heart. This is why I keep harping on about journalistic training – nowhere in the world are cameras shoved in the face of grieving families,” she tweeted.
Seasoned print journalist Mahim Maher tweeted: “Today I was glad I don’t work for TV #BhojaAir print must show restraint.”
Quoting the late US Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, journalist Zainab Imam ?said: “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”
Criticising the Pakistani electronic media, a Pakistani blogger based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia said: “These channel walahs are bunch of immature idiots and need to learn especially from the Indians.”
Elsewhere, as the nations mourned the aviation tragedy, a private channel was broadcasting a programme on “mangled bangles” after the crash.
Expressing anger over the programme televised by ARY News, renowned documentary filmmaker, artist and journalist Beena Sarwar tweeted: “Mangled bangles and shoes of women on ARY… Imagine seeing your loved ones’ possessions on TV like this.”
Senior journalists also exchanged emails on different internet-based media groups highlighting the ethical violations made by Pakistani electronic media while reporting the air crash.
Afia Salam said that all of the Pakistani media is “seth-owned” and unless and until the corporate ethos flow from the top, not even media managers or gatekeepers can implement code of conduct.
She said the media needs to be responsible and ethical in reporting. “Any disaster or emergency does not give a license to the media persons to bypass the code of conduct,” she stated in an email over a web-based group.
Electronic media journalist Mazhar Abbas, however, defended the television channels.
He said that everyone knows that to implement any code of conduct effectively, the consent of all heads of the channels is needed. “Till that time, all professionals must try to follow the basic journalistic ethics and it is not confined to electronic but the print media as well,” he stated.
Abbas said that it is very important to know how such events are reported. “Basic standard journalistic ethical codes were violated [in the Bhoja Air crash case]. It is high time that media managers must address these issues,” he said.