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Problems on hold Not only social media

Youssef Sidhom

29 May 2016 11:57 am

This is not the first time—and it definitely looks like it will not be the last—for me to point out with concern and displeasure that major international media outlets have been falsifying the facts and misleading public opinion; in which case they are no better than non-professional social media sites. I am referring here to the BBC and the CNN, as well as many other major news sites, and the manner in which they reported on the crash of Egyptair flight MS804. The Cairo-bound flight had taken off from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport on the evening of Wednesday 18 May; in the early hours of Thursday 19 May it crashed over the Mediterranean 290km off the Egyptian coast.

The incident was by all means a harrowing, distressing one. In the early hours of Thursday, the EgyptAir plane suddenly disappeared off radar screens and all contact with it was lost. No distress signal had been sent. Search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched to attempt to locate the plane in hope of rescuing any of the passengers or crewmembers, but the poignant fact was that the plane had crashed and all on board met their death. It remained for the mystery behind the crash to be cleared. These were the facts which the whole world learned once the plane disappeared.

Questions of how the crash occurred could not possibly find immediate answers; it required time till the facts could be revealed. Efforts were conducted to find, identify, and lift debris from the plane within the radius of seawater in which it fell. The two black boxes which alone could tell what occurred on the plane during the last minutes of the flight had to be found for the mystery to be cleared. This much was obvious.

It appears, however, that the major news sites and channels would not wait out the facts, and scrambled to offer coverage which was in no way professional. They threw to the wind all standards of accuracy and credibility that ought to be followed by the media especially in cases of disasters. Instead, the offered news coverage was at best non-specific and inaccurate, and at worst coloured with double standards, unsubstantiated insinuations, and manipulation of the truth. News presenters took to volunteering early presumptions with unrestrained bias against Egypt. Sadly, the victim was the individual who trusts the accuracy and credibility of these channels even while they persist in misleading viewers and falsifying facts.

I previously warned against the inaccurate material posted on social media sites and the destructive potential it possessed of spreading rumours and falsifying truths. But now the BBC, CNN, and other major news sources have joined the fray and offer coverage that lacks in professionalism and conscientiousness. Where the Egyptair MS804 crash is concerned, they have deliberately taken to proposing alleged causes for the crash based on scenarios or ‘hypotheses’ which exposed a prejudice against Egypt that was all too obvious. Their persistence in presenting catastrophic hypotheses backed with no evidence whatsoever, or holding irrelevant comparisons between the recent crash and other crashes in the past, exposed a resolve to put Egypt in the wrong. There appeared a strong will to shoulder Egypt alone with the responsibility of the crash, disregarding the fact that France is home to both the airport from which the plane took off and to the manufacturer of the plane, Airbus.

If we compare the coverage of the MS804 crash with that of other crash incidents in the past and which involved airlines of France, Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia and China, the double standards hit us hard. Back then, one and all followed the news as they unfolded, and waited to discover the circumstances and causes of a crash, even when it took months on end before the black boxes were found, deciphered and analysed. But when it came to Egypt there was an eager keenness to cite anything that could throw a shadow over the country and cast it in the light of the one responsible for the disaster. Only a few hours after the MS804 crash was announced, the Russian plane crash over Sinai last October was recalled, as was the hijacking of an Egyptian plane to Larnaka last March. Both incidents bear no resemblance to the recent one. Even the Egyptair flight from New York some 15 years ago which crashed over the Atlantic owing to the alleged suicide of its pilot was put on the table. Voices considering the possibilities of security failure at Charles De Gaulle Airport or technical failure in the plane were hushed, yet those which—with no evidence—cast doubts over Egypt’s reliability, the dependability of her national airline, and the trustworthiness of the pilot were loud and overbearing.

BBC and CNN have slipped into the pitfall of foregoing professionalism, credibility and respect. They pained Egyptians, who were quick to see through the coverage and to spot the intention to badmouth Egypt. This is not the first time the BBC and CNN and others go this path, neither will it be the last. Egyptians should be warned.

 

Watani International

29 May 2016

 

 


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