Rush to judgment shows media's lack of respect

Rush to judgment shows media's lack of respect


The search continues for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8.
The search continues for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8.

There's intense interest around the world as we wait to find out precisely why Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on March 8.

Ships and aircraft have searched a huge area for signs of the plane, which was on a routine flight to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

Analysis of data sent out by the aircraft led investigators to focus their efforts on the remote southern Indian Ocean - far from where the plane should have been flying, thousands of kilometres west of the Australian coast.

Among the many conspiracy theories presented by the media are allegations questioning the actions of the pilot and his co-pilot.

The stories suggest that they may have both, or individually, played a part in the aircraft's disappearance.

Najib Razak, Malaysia's Prime Minister, said last month the disabling of the aircraft's communications systems had been a "deliberate action by someone on the plane".

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, who had more than 18,000 hours of flying time, has been accused in the media of hijacking his own aircraft.

A number of stories suggest that he committed suicide because he had marital or financial problems.

According to the media, his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, is a "reckless flirt" who - in 2011 - invited women into the cockpit during a flight.

All these stories mean the families of these two men have not only had to deal with the loss of their loved ones, but also the added stress caused by the serious allegations and close media scrutiny.

In particular, investigations into Shah involved a search of his home, which revealed details of marital problems, and his love affair with another woman. Reports also linked Shah to the "radical opposition" in Malaysia.

It is understandable, given what has happened, that there should be an investigation into the backgrounds of the pilots. But it is worrying how the media has presented the facts: the duo's many years of service with Malaysia Airlines - about 32 for Shah and seven for Hamid - have been largely overlooked; the fact the cockpit audio shows nothing unusual was omitted in most reports.

Yes, the aircraft's communications system was definitely switched off, and the plane changed course. This suggests one or both pilots may have been involved. Yet many questions remain unanswered. Despite this, some people seem to have already made a judgment.

Until we know the truth, the media should give the families of the two pilots the respect and privacy they deserve.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Rush to judgment shows media's lack of respect


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