Covering the Bhoja Air crash

Published: April 21, 2012
The writer is a freelance journalist and member of Citizens for Democracy

The writer is a freelance journalist and member of Citizens for Democracy

The devastating news of Bhoja Air crash pierced the airwaves on local TV channels and shook many homes as the tragedy was captured on a camera. It was around 6.30 pm when the Boeing 737 crashed near Hussainabad on its way to landing near Islamabad, taking 127 lives — everyone who was on board that day, 118 passengers, nine children, five infants, and nine crewmembers.

The incident quickly unstitched the wounds that the Airblue crash had inflicted on us. And the media’s coverage did not help at all. One would expect reporters and editors to learn that the most important fact in a tragedy is not who breaks it first, but the impact that the news may have on human life. The continual lack of the media’s understanding of this is a tragedy in itself.

A news channel started off with showing passengers manifest, part by part, object by object, while another one lifted footage from a Hollywood film based on a plane crash and played that several times. Reporters from different channels chased family members, with microphones and cameras capturing their grieving moments, not seeming to realise that this was a gross intrusion of their privacy. One person who was newly married, and had come looking for his wife who was on the flight, was asked thrice by a reporter where his wife was going.

At this point, I was forced to think that maybe the media should not be allowed at the site of a human tragedy or a disaster such as this, since quite clearly, their practitioners in the form of reporters did not understand that they needed to show some respect to grieving families or passengers’ dead bodies.

Is it too much to ask of the media to sensitise and train staffers on these matters? After all, the idea is to report what has happened, what is the harm if it is done with a bit more sensitivity and thoughtfulness? Reporters and editors both need to learn how to report a disaster and if this is done, it could benefit the whole industry. We should not have to see newspapers congratulating their sister television channels for being the first to report an air crash — that is unnecessary and in poor taste.

Editors and producers should try and understand that the focus of reporting tragedies such as the Bhoja air crash should be on accuracy and authenticity of the reporting, and not necessarily on a race to get the story out as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the efficacy of conducting a transmission that carries on for several hours should be reviewed because after a while it becomes redundant. Besides, showing graphic images of dead bodies or body parts continuously, makes little sense, and in fact, may end up desensitising viewers — especially those who are children — to graphic violence. Perhaps, a long open-ended transmission is also one reason why news anchors, at times, end up asking pointless or inappropriate questions, especially from grieving family members.

Reporting disasters is a good way of assessing journalism, because it is usually at such times that standard operating procedures and inbuilt mechanisms to ensure that reporters and journalists in general abide by codes of conduct and ethical practices are severely tested.

Now is also the time to ask questions, but those that would lead to further uncovering of the truth and help the government hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (35)

  • Usman Shahid
    Apr 21, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Media people are always proud on breaking every bad news and coming first in breaking


  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:24AM

    yes sister some time they are too much giving every body hyper tension.


  • 3footninja
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:25AM

    you’ve hit bullseye with respect to the media’s coverage. its a total shame that news channels/anchors have absolutely no semblance of decency when it comes to covering such events. one can only hope that our media learns from this… playing grandiose music sequences, flashing rapid-fire images dead-bodies and debris, along with sirens wailing in the background, is just plain pathetic and smacks of utter disregard for human feelings.


  • Anon
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:41AM


    but who will regulate the regulators?


  • abrarism
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:41AM

    agreed !


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:54AM

    Your angst is well taken. I understand you.

    But I live in the US where you would expect the media to be more mature and respectful — especially when tragedies like this happen.

    Yet, it may surprise but not shock you since you seem to be an intelligent and aware person, that even here the media can be rather crass. The first thing they will do is stake-out the house of, say, the dead pilot, camping over-night with their equipment and satellite-equipped vans, so that they can rush up the driveway and shove a mike under the nose of a new widow (who only opened the door to collect the morning newspaper) and ask her banal questions like “how do you feel about your husband’? .

    “Would you say you have a good marriage”?

    “How are your children taking it”?

    The media the world over is sensationalistic and can be infuriatingly intrusive.

    The ONLY difference is that in the west, they have laws to protect their citizens.

    We don’t.


  • Ghulam Ghaus
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:58AM

    Yes it is right that the media did not cover this tragedy in the way it ought to be ,keeping in view irrelevant questions asked by reporters and the anchors as well. It create panic instead of doing the job of bridging the gaps.


  • zahid
    Apr 22, 2012 - 1:56AM

    Very true – I was shocked to see reporters at the scene picking scattered items and showing through camera without knowing that they don’t need to touch anything at the scene as investigation had still to be started by the concerned authorities. Showing graphic images is a “sin” our media is doing. We journalists have to follow the code of ethics, otherwise media will lost its credibility soon.


  • Tariq
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:42AM

    It’s unfortunate, but the media is just another representation of the malaise that has afflicted our nation. Just like the institutions of the country, they are grossly exploiting the powers that have been bestowed upon them.


  • Aadi Virgo
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:59AM

    Media is ignorant in breaking news race.
    How come can you ask and capture someone,how are you feeling? What do you think about the incident?
    media grow up..


  • Falcon
    Apr 22, 2012 - 7:21AM

    I agree with observation of Meekal Ahmed. The media is like this all over the world. However, in other places it has matured a bit more and a bit more regulated. We are in the midst of media evolution since the media phenomenon is relatively new for our nation. In time, we will mature as well but I agree, we have to push them towards becoming more responsible.


  • Ali
    Apr 22, 2012 - 8:31AM



  • Apr 22, 2012 - 8:39AM

    The point is who are the people in charge of such broadcasts. We have journalists criticizing all the insensitive coverage on twitter and all that, but it clearly shows that their voices do not matter where they need to. If journalistic ethics are not being followed by these producers, then it makes you wonder if they really are journalists. Makes you wonder who are really these people. Or maybe they are the owners of media groups probably having little clue about the high journalistic ethics that other realize about, being people with a lot of money which they had to invest in something. Media seems to be a good sector to invest these days. Nothing sells like bad news these days.


  • Amer Yar Khan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 9:51AM

    Thank you.


  • Mirza Baig
    Apr 22, 2012 - 9:58AM

    Highly agreed! Also, what was the point of putting background music and showing tragedic moment. Was it a movie going on for them? It is truely said “empty vessels make more noise” and this goes for our media. Shame on them!


  • Ali
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:16AM

    Well said


  • syed farhan hassan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:25AM

    Excellent indeed…… Our media is fake, paid by pakistan enemies and also illetrate w.r.t what they are doing… I totally agreed … Well done nazish and keep up the good work.Recommend

  • Apr 22, 2012 - 10:25AM

    I wholly agree with Kiran Nazish. its enough, media has to act ethically specially in such tragedies. last night i saw one news channel revealing the belongings of the diseased. its most heinous, and worst violation of media’s codes of conduct. it seem there is no one to take action against such regular violations.PEMRA has literally become irrelevant, she should either be abolished or should start function, enforcing its rules of business.


  • shujah khan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:40AM

    Miss Kiran,

    Being member of the journalist community, you are brave enough to criticize yourself. you are very right that the way media handles such trajedies is like adding insult to injury. Unfortunately we are misusing the concept of freedom of speech with audacity. I think we must be mature enough now and should not touch the height of selfishness. May God bless our loved ones we lost in the crash.


  • Sidra Emmad
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:47AM

    You have a point, to some degree.First of all we all are human beings,we should understand and respect the feelings of those who are in deep grief who have lost one or more precious relative or friend! what if it was you (god forbid) who was one of them? by thinking in this way a reporter or journalist(etc.) could behave appropriately! Also, on another note, How could we possibly stop business? this is what the news channels and news reporters do,deliver news and that too frseh! there is a lot of competition hence no matter what they will continue to compete without sentiment! i know i have stated something which is condraticiting, but this is my opinion!


  • Usman Aftab
    Apr 22, 2012 - 12:07PM

    Could not have agreed more!


  • Apr 22, 2012 - 12:37PM

    Electronic Media is definitely in the midst of a phase where it needs to reconsider its rais’on d’etre. It needs to ask itself the basic questions such as ‘what is news’ , ‘what is meant by reporting something’ and what is at stake when a news is to be classified as ‘breaking news’?

    Sensitivity and sensibility are likely to follow, once these questions are sufficiently pondered over. Even the Indian media is on most occasions either grossly over or under sensitive to what it tries to report. I hope this is just a phase and will lead us to times of better journalism!


  • Abdul Rehman Afzal
    Apr 22, 2012 - 1:02PM

    Yea very true, this media is not contributing any progress in our society just doing business with every moment of life. These TV channels owners will accept this reporting in their houses and lives?
    What i perceive from this type of reporting that there is only one piece of meat and thousands of dogs want to eat it….


  • Usmani
    Apr 22, 2012 - 2:15PM

    Very pertinent observation Ms Nazish. I totally agreed.


  • Umair
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:03PM

    Well written article kiran Recommend

  • Truth Teller
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:07PM

    Just notice the information & discussion taking place from another channel not Express TV on the Crash:
    Anchor Person: Why passengers did not jump the aircraft when they saw fire in the aircraft?
    Aviation Expert: It would have been difficult for passengers to jump from aircraft.
    By this conversation you can comprehend the IQ of the person asking questions.
    Har Sheekh Par Aik Allo Baitha Ha


  • Maryam
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:31PM

    Thanks for giving words to my thought!


  • Ali Khawaja
    Apr 22, 2012 - 5:37PM



  • sarah khan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:31PM

    Very Well Kiran Nazish…
    You have written what we all felt…Media was just making its point.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 22, 2012 - 11:31PM

    My point was that in acountry like the US all you have to say is “I will give you three minutes to get off my property” and the media will be gone in a flash!


  • Naveed727
    Apr 23, 2012 - 6:55AM

    Excellent article Kiran! Media should be responsible when any tragedy happens, at-least! :(


  • Tashi
    Apr 24, 2012 - 3:41PM

    I was there at PIMS when they were bringing in bodies. Stupid cameraman were blocking the doors of the Ambulances trying to get their money shots. Pathetic!!!!!!


  • Apr 24, 2012 - 6:58PM

    Why there is not Media counseling, Just because you have got a MIC and a camera with you a card in your pocket that says you are JOURNALIST .. you can do anything capture anything record anything Stream Anything and make fun of anything. NO ETHICS are left in media, when plane crashed they started showing BLOOD and BODY PARTS of deads WITHOUT even considering that THOSE affected FAMILIES ARE ALSO WATCHING WHAT THE HELL WOULD THEY FEEL WHEN WATCH SUCH video. BUT NO—WE ARE JOURNALISTS WE CAN DO ANYTHING — DO NOT TEACH US WE ARE FREE.

    some years Back there was accident of girls of a University. 3 of girls DIED . A CAMERA MAN REACHED AND FORCED TO SHOOT THE DEAD FACES … Students resisted but that JOURNALIST (as he was authority on everything) said ” YOU CANNOT DO ANYTHING, IN THE END PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SEE WHAT WE WANT THEM TO SEE.” Students threw him out of hospital and a slide on TV was seen ” STUDENTS KA SAHAAFI PER TASHADUD”…. Recommend

  • ozair mustafa
    Apr 25, 2012 - 1:11PM

    Well its shameful, please some one try to put sense in our media, why we are so cruel.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 25, 2012 - 3:25PM

    @Mirza Baig:

    Not only background music but in the AB case some sicko made a video using the Microsoft Flight Simulator which showed an Airbus on fire before it hit the Margalla’s. Don’t know where he got the fire in the air part —


More in Opinion