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Into the debris

Published Apr 21, 2012 10:00am


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When I decided to write this, I had told myself that I will try and refrain from being repetitive and not comment similarly as I had done so in 2010. However, after seeing the coverage on the tragedy last night, I realised that when this country has repeated making all the same mistakes, why can’t I repeat my statements. And so I shall.

Nobody learns from their mistakes here it seems. Perhaps nobody wants to learn – for learning will require evolving and improving as a nation and that is something we generally do not like making an effort towards.

One hundred and twenty-seven people were killed in the plane crash last evening. I can’t even make a guess on how many families and lives have been affected by those deaths and how many dreams and hopes shattered. But still, we never learn.

As I watched television reporters pick up debris from the air plane and make comments such as “This was once a part of plane, now it is a part of wreckage” I realised how desperate we are to convey information – so desperate that we don’t even think about what we are saying and what we are doing at the moment.

Every piece of metal and fabric lying on the ground, once was a part of the airplane. Making statements such as “These seats had passengers sitting on them a few hours ago and now they are just burnt remains” doesn’t really add to anyone’s knowledge of what actually took place. Neither do such statements prod sentiments further. To borrow from what I wrote last time, “They didn’t realise that flashing “honeymoon couple dead” on their tickers, would not be any more hard-hitting than the deaths of all of those who were not on their honeymoon.”

The media did not learn anything from the Airblue crash in 2010. Reporters infiltrated the grounds even before the rescue teams had started their work. Full marks given on their speed. Full marks given on their mindlessness. As media representatives hungrily rummaged through body parts, charred remains and precious possessions and allowed the camera to pan on them – I wondered what those victims’ families must be going through that very moment. I also wondered what the feelings were when the cameras moved across to another scene and the reporter flung the belonging back into the debris. It was a prop and it wasn’t needed anymore – the cameras had moved on.

Be it the interior minister or be it the media, nothing brings them faster to the screens than death. As cynical a statement as this may be but in this country it seems as if everyone is a scavenger of death – for nothing will give you a bigger spotlight and higher ratings than the news of death.

Blaming the police and rescue authorities for not controlling the media is not fair. They were there to do their job – everyone has to be their own monitor. The media’s job was to convey developments responsibly and it failed to do so again. It played with people’s sentiments, conveyed irrelevant bits of information and made their viewers watch scenes that will continue to flash across their minds long after the victims are buried. This is not journalism. This is exploitation.

The tragedy was also a great example of the perils of misreporting. Even before it could be determined what aircraft crashed and where, certain television channels started reporting the incident. From initially calling it a helicopter to eventually bringing in the captain’s credentials – all the same mistakes were made. Again.

Yes, it was the airline’s first flight to Islamabad. Yes, there was bad weather. Yes, the plane was old. Yes, it was near landing. Which one of these do you want to form your expert opinion on?

Former crash experts have claimed that the plane’s age may not have anything to do with the crash but that is not stopping people from condemning the airline’s decision to fly it. You may not want to rule it out but you may also want to refrain from making your own judgments until an enquiry is complete.

Unfortunate though that all the measures and investigations are posed after the tragedy. If the plane’s age or the weather are possible reasons, why didn’t the authorities consider this before the flight took off? Why don’t we believe in preemptive measures? Whether it is security lapses or plane crashes – we don’t really believe in looking at risks before hand. Is it because we don’t anticipate them or is it because we already have a million investigative commissions formed and no room to make more? Preemptive measures and analysis may not be able to prevent tragedies from taking place but they may be able to give us more insight on why, how and when they are likely to occur.

I cringed inwardly watching the reporting, hoping that this time no television channel will barge into a victim’s house to harass the family. But my great industry never lets me down, for that is exactly what happened. I had written the following line in 2010 regarding an airhostess who was a victim in the crash: They didn’t realise that a mother of a victim was in shock before asking her what her daughter was like in person. Please read the sentence again for I don’t need to re-word it at all.

If only various condolences could make this tragedy easier to cope with. If only something could make us understand how in an instant 127 people, including a family of five, could be wiped off mid-air. If only there was a way to have prevented this. But it happened and hundreds are mourning – as one media representative to another, can we help make this time a little less hard for everyone?

The writer is the Deputy Editor at


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Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.

She tweets @ShyemaSajjad

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (68) Closed

Cyrus Howell Apr 23, 2012 06:05am
"Ahmed Mukhtar has ordered all private airline planes to be grounded, saying that they can only fly after technical inspection. It has also been decided to ground all faulty and out of order planes." A very bureaucratic response indeed. O'Hare airport in Chicago is a lightning magnet. No airliners are allowed to come near it when thunder storms surround this airport. There is no problem if someone is going to Make A Decision in this case. I returned from Beijing to Seattle on a China Eastern flight that was delayed for repairs to the airliner. On the flight it sounded like the left wing was going to fall off for the entire trip. Mechanics are quite good. They take their responsibilities seriously. A lightning strike can destroy a plane no matter how new it is or how good the condition. In particular those powerful lightning bolts that travel across the sky horizontally. "I went by the book. It wasn't my fault.." AHMED MUKHTAR
Mahir Chaudhry Apr 22, 2012 10:57pm
Another down in such a short span of time same Airport Same Approach Controller What a coincidence. I believe the Captain was had tone of hours on B-737 as he was flying Saheen Airlines. The ISB Radar Approach handed the Aircraft to Tower at about 8 Nautical Miles at an altitude of 3,900ft. At 3.9 Nautical miles Aircraft disappeared from Radar screen at an altitude of 1800ft.There was some typical weather around that build up instantly and then rains. This weather is associated with sudden change of wind direction and speed(the Aircraft is likely to loose altidute Microbursts could be another reason A microburst is a small, very intense downdraft that descends to the ground resulting in a strong wind divergence. The size of the event is typically less than 4 kilometers across. Microburst’s are capable of producing winds of more than 100 mph causing significant damage. The life span of a microburst is around 5-15 minutes. When rain falls below cloud base or is mixed with dry air, it begins to evaporate and this evaporation process cools the air. The cool air descends and accelerates as it approaches the ground. When the cool air approaches the ground, it spreads out in all directions and this divergence of the wind is the signature of the microburst. In humid climates, microburst’s can also generate from heavy precipitation. Shocked why owner has been but on Exit Control list or Certification of Airline was done in Mr. .Nawaz Sharif era.
Karamat Apr 22, 2012 06:52pm
What makes these channels think they will get better ratings by showing insensitive images and making comments without knowledge? As is the case with rest of the organisations in our country, the media people have substandard education levels so naturally, their understanding of moral and ethical issues will also be limited if not non-existent.
zara Apr 22, 2012 07:30pm
yellow journalism sometimes cross the limits....some channels should learn the media ethics...atleast ABC of media....govt should enforced these rules on channels otherwise just ban them..thats it.
saeed Apr 22, 2012 06:16pm
'It is God's will"...why bother with details.
tikki Apr 22, 2012 07:49pm
We the people are responsible for all the attention given to the media or certain TV stations.Lets face it,if it ain't bad,we the people don't care to hear about it,and thats not just in Pakistan,its everywhere.I honestly don't know what to say,our country is headed south in every aspect.Our politicians,the system are all horrible.People talk about the media not being educated,what about the high up officials who hold extremely important posts who hold fake education credentials and degrees.Ever hear a reporter on TV,they are not dressed professional,they don't sound educated.What the government,the media,the police and everyone in between lack is respect,the care,the concern,the ability to face the issues.Its all about who to blame.Look at our FM Mr.Malik,now I'm not a ppp or a nawaz-n ot L or whatever guy,he was quick to pin the bame on Nawaz government for issuing license to Bhoja.The government is quick to fool people and blame others.The government,the officials,the media are the problem,they don't care about the people who elected them.I blame "WE" the people,We voted for them,and now,cry,
tikki Apr 22, 2012 07:52pm
Our system is old,its still the way it was 100 years ago.Politicians are clever,smart and rich. Think about it,its the same ol same ol on matter which party rules.We the people keep falling for the cat in the hat trick.
Shafi Apr 23, 2012 02:35am
Why print useless comments?
Javeria Mahmood Apr 23, 2012 10:07am
Not Pride but High RATINGS
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:43am
Well said. It is in-breading all the way.
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:45am
Perfect. Thank you for putting down you thought in a very constructive manner. Wow. we need ore people to start thinking like you Just not random thoughts.
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:41am
By PG you meant parental guidance? Good idea but how would you implement that in a country where population is desensitized by daily killings on all fronts -from within and outside. By the way, Pakistan is not a movie theater
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:36am
The author of this article is proposing reporting with responsibility and nothing more. In the name of efficient reporting the media enthusiasts might be destroying the evidence and helping in creating more chaos.
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:33am
I am sure you are kidding here. Are you proposing censorship? Think twice before you put forward your wisdom.
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 01:58am
My question to all , are we going to be all riled up and be super critical to somewhat solution oriented again in next six months or year to write about another air disaster just like we are now. I am sure that you are reading the promises of investigation and more clearances from every corner of the government and responsible departments. They are busy making more lies to feed the same people who are happy to hear that something is going to happen now. I can assure you that nothing is going to happen since the time for the reports to be written, investigations to be completed is the same as when the next disaster would strike. People have attention span of 3 or 4 weeks. There will be some more killings some will be some more floods, avalanche and some other distraction and we all be singing a new song and learn a new dance. The show will go on and the business will be just as usual. People get the government the deserve.
Not Curious Apr 23, 2012 04:52am
And they get higher ratings because media also is part of us, you me and all of us as a public and they do what we like, sensationalism, no matter how it may hurt anyone. I hope you get it!
Not Curious Apr 23, 2012 04:48am
They do not show ripped body parts, they do not muddle through victims' belongings and they do not harass and exploit emotions of victims' relatives. Yet they report based on facts, figures and analysis of the development of incidents. It is as simple as that, IF you can understand that what international media do. (excluding Indian media, as they are no different than ours)
Curious Apr 22, 2012 05:17pm
if so many people liked this article, why these channels, got extra high ratings......Just curious....... in a tragedy like this, what international media do.... can anybody tell (including the author) ...
Fuad Apr 22, 2012 05:03pm
Good article, the plane crash tragedy was compounded by the irresponsible reporting by all the TV channels. The incorrect off the cuff analysis by anchors, the callous reporting by reporters on the scene and the insensitive interview attempts with the grieving relatives needs to be controlled by either self regulation by the media or be enforced by the silent watchdog PEMRA.
G.a Apr 23, 2012 05:50am
Media persons are a product of their societies and their educational institutions.
pakistani Apr 23, 2012 09:06am
i agree with you.
Majida Apr 21, 2012 03:26pm
Sad! Has our media become so insensitive?
Saman Rukh Khan (@Sa Apr 21, 2012 03:35pm
very well written.. i felt exactly the same things that you were feeling.. the reporting of our mainstream media has failed yet again.
Ali abbas Apr 21, 2012 04:10pm
I am wondering where is the supreme court and their suo moto notice? Is this only reserved to embarrass the govt. why media is allowed to shatter any standards of decency and add to collective pain of Pakistani people? Are courts scared of media and worry that they might start objectively report on the shenanigans of the courts?
Sana Apr 21, 2012 04:17pm
absolutely agree with everything you have written. As shocked as i was over this tragedy, i was even more shocked at the callous behavior and words of the 'reporters' being used to 'interview' the victims' relatives.
raika45 Apr 21, 2012 05:15pm
With the number of newspapers and TV stations Pakistan has,reporting has become a dog eat dog world.Your journalists resort to any means to get into the limelight.If trampling over your misfortune or despair so be it.But there is supposed to be a filter called the editorial board or TV managers that are supposed to separate the grain from the chaff.They are supposed to decide what gets printed or goes on TV.The fingers should be pointed at these people.Accurate responsible news apparently by passes them.Guardians of the press or TV have a great responsibility and they should rise to the occasion.Unless making money by showing such trash news is their only aim.
Azi Apr 21, 2012 05:40pm
yes mr rehman malik ....i read that u have stopped the ownwer of the airline from flying away......Bravo mr malik......just lie low for 10-20 days & like always people will forget ....then u can fill your pocket & let his name off the list.........God help Pakistan to get rid of people like you
Noor Kamal Apr 21, 2012 05:53pm
media people are pakistani, first and fore most. they are no different than our patwaris, thanedars and sarkari baboons.
Khan Apr 21, 2012 05:54pm
Another very sad story. We always start thinking about a tragedy after it has happenend. This is not a new thing. There could only be two reasons for that. Either the mangers concerned are sifarshis/corrupt and they don't know what to expect or they know about the tragedies and just don't do anything to avert them. Both these situations are due to moral and professional corruption. We also need to understand that this is what our nation has become in all the areas. These managers are our own brothers and sisters. They will not come from above. If a society becomes corrupt, that society will keep on getting corrupt professionals, Seriously, if we turn our head around, we will see similar faces all over. We need to start facing the truth and do something about it. We will never get help from anywhere. This is our problem and we need to take responsibility. Beleive me, we will be hearing about another tragedy soon if we don't start changing our own behaviours..
N.Ahmed Apr 21, 2012 06:10pm
Agreed with writer, our media is just making their business they have no feelings for public. Today morning, a media person was in a house in Karachi said by him "One of Luckiest families" who could not board the plane... how shameful!!!
Saima Apr 21, 2012 06:19pm
Shyema i soo agree with whatever you have written..height of insensitivity and mindlessness. Asking the grieved families how they feel about the incident to the constant flashing of the honeymoon couples death as if other lives werent important our media repeats the same mistakes that were made after the Air Blue Crash.will we ever learn ?Hello Pemra do you mind making some regulations for this.!
Atan Apr 21, 2012 06:20pm
I think it is about time the following is agreed to and enforced. 1. At the site of the disaster nobody except for rescue people or law enforcement should be present. 2. As much as possible everything at site should be considered as evidence and should not be disturbed of course subject to rescue work. 3. No dead body/body parts should under any circumstances be photographed or shown as such on the media. Where required the image should blurred. This condition should absolute as a respect to the dead and their families. Anybody breaking this code should face criminal charges. 4. All media should agree on a voluntary code of ethics and should report with sense of respect for the dead, not as they do at the moment. Almost shouting in frenzy and excited. They should report with a sense dignity to the dead.
farhan Apr 21, 2012 06:22pm
Exactly, we love to speculate and jump to conclusions as ordinary humans but trained journalists are supposed to refrain from it. It seems that there is a mad race to fill up reports and airwaves and once they have nothing more to tell, they start talking in air. This is not news reporting. But till the time, public happily consumes this sort of reporting, nothing will change.
farhan Apr 21, 2012 06:23pm
Media like rest of the country has failed. No professionalism at all
Luqman Apr 21, 2012 06:30pm
This is what I tweeted and this is so irritating...we never learn @luqmanrehman: opportunist Pakistani politicians & media cashing in on the sad plane crash. only obvious objective is to sell their politics and airtime...
Agha Ata Apr 21, 2012 06:50pm
You said: ". . . Why don’t we believe in pre-emptive measures? Shyeme, don't you see that if we could do just that, there would not be all the problems we are facing today. East Pakistan would still be with us, there would be no useless wars with India, no Siachen conflict, there would be no Taliban, no attacks of GHQ, nor kidnapping of Osama, no enmity with any country and a quarter of million other mishaps, and above all you wouldn’t have to write this article either?
farhan Apr 21, 2012 06:52pm
But ma'am, DAWN is no different. Today's newspaper carries a big picture of a crying woman (I am sure no one would have asked her permission to print her picture). That picture conveys no information (we all know that relatives must be crying). It was senseless, paper filling picture taken by a senseless opportunistic photographer. The newspaper should feel a bit ashamed at behaving like the same people which it is condemning
Dilawar Apr 23, 2012 07:30am
Cyrus, those are your observations as a passenger. All airplanes are equipped to deal with the lightening strikes. You can not generalize that Chicago airport is shut down during the thunderstorms. There are more details such as the cloud heights and types of clouds and cross winds etc. I am making these statement as a professional not just as an observer travelling from point one city to another. I recently landed in Hong Kong airport amid a thunderstorms so there is nothing alarming as long as the people know what they are doing. #1. We do not have adequate equipment in Pakistani airports #2 We do not have properly trained pilots. #3 Microburst are no something new. There are some serious questions which need to be answered so please do not muddy the water by making trite comments. It just complicated the issues and confuses the reader. I am sure you have some other expertise in some other field. By the way the safety records of China Eastern airlines are not quite stellar.
Usman Apr 21, 2012 07:31pm
Our media is just interested in increasing their rating to increase viewership/revenue. This is a wonderful article though when I see that Ms/Mrs Shyema Sajjad is herself an editor in Dawn who themselves were at the forefront of speculation. "Actions speak louder then words". Please try to clean your own house first.
Taz Khan Apr 21, 2012 08:06pm
some reporters are heartless, even in the western media i haven't seen this type of reporting
Khalid Kamal Apr 21, 2012 08:12pm
I totally second the writer. It is unfortunate, how some media anchor jumped the gun and started with their so called expert views. When they know NOTHING about aviation or even aviation weather. Normally these investigation takes fair amount of time to finalise to reach conclusive findings. This only reflect immature and perhaps irresponsible media. Such inaccurate reporting truly hurt the system and more-so bereaved families. Needless to add inconstancy & poor Govt Policies remains in question and shows its manifestation in every shade of ............
sameer Apr 21, 2012 08:16pm
Good criticism by the writer. Hope any one loser of the media groups read this article before giving their anchors the Idea of "sub se pehley khabar do". All are ruthless beasts, who have only one objective: earn more money by getting the best Rating; Rating by playing with the sentiments of people. As suo moto notices; those are only a fake alarm to let us "people" know that they are doing something for the country but the reality is they ain't doing nothing. Had they been providing justice, the NRO case could have been closed by now! PM and President could have been behind the bars! Justice to Fakhara Younas, Sialkot Brothers, Aafia Siddique and many more... But this court is doing a good job i.e. greeting thanks to PM for coming to supreme court on hearing as if he isn't convicted! And last but not the least, Salute to us "people" who bought such nice personnel in power. Let's be mature and work for real change in Pakistan! Vote sensibly! Peace
Jawwad Apr 21, 2012 08:16pm
Media is the just the reflection of society at large. We have become numb and barbaric with no room for introspection.
Omar Apr 21, 2012 08:20pm
Spot on!!!
Kashif Apr 21, 2012 09:07pm
That's true we never learn from our mistakes!
Riaz Apr 21, 2012 09:26pm
Our media is like this coz of the viewers............unfortunately the viewers in this country want spicy stuff..........the day our viewers become mature, the media will also become mature by itself.
gheribaat Apr 21, 2012 09:36pm
Well said .. We live abroad and we cant help but think when will our media grow up! The anchor does not know which questions to ask ( for some reason they love repeating hidious questions ) and the reporter has no full knowledge or have the ability to say something useful. And the plane had just crashed for few hours, when each person on the media started saying " we know how the plane has crashed " , like seriously!!! Worst is putting the Bhoja owner under " exist control list " ... politics poltiics. Such shame any news is a way to play our dirty tricks!
ahmedzubair Apr 21, 2012 09:52pm
absolutely agree with you. I was amazed to see reporters and cameramen forcing their way into the information counters on the airports and trying to talk to the relatives of the victims!! And then you see reporters who reached homes of the victims! Why? What kind of reporting is this?
Sehrish Apr 21, 2012 10:07pm
Dear Author, Excellent piece of writing. I agree with you. Our media likes to play with the sentiments of people and it did it again. thats why i switched off tv to avoid mental stress that prevails for days after watching such pathetic reports.
Maleeka Mehmood Apr 22, 2012 01:33pm
Good article. I believe that there should always be PG involved in showing the images of devastation as flashbacks of these images torment the minds of the young and affect their thinking much more strongly than adults.
Zafar lawa Apr 22, 2012 12:20am
Very well said , it's good to know people in media who care for the sentiments... It's a carporate world where monetary interests govern the ethics. Come on Free Media it's high time, develope some ethics for yourself. Spare this poor nation from bombarding bloody scenes, just to increase your ratings .... It's too dark already light a candle if you can
Ahmed Apr 22, 2012 01:54am
I fully agree with the writer. Our media needs to be EDUCATED in real sense of the word. At this moment we see Media at no different pedestal than where others are & in some cases Media is seen even lacking more --- like in the field of professional ethics. It is high time that grand owners of print & electronic media, our media managers/executives and PEMRA etc sit together to frame observable code of ethics in our larger public interest. At this moment most electronic media lacks decency even when anchors are handling sensitive issues.
Khadija Apr 23, 2012 09:07am
Great blog Shy! I think the problem is that we as a people are insensitive prying souls, which seeps into media coverage as well.
Khalid Apr 22, 2012 05:40am
Some other thoughts come to mind. If the plane was not airworthy and rishwat helped in getting Bhoja air to become operational, the giver AND reciever are responsible for the death of 127 innocent souls. Our corrupt system may not punish them but God WILL.
Khalid Apr 22, 2012 05:47am
I am almost certain that cash was involved in getting Bhoja operational. Giver as well the reciever are responsible for 127 souls. Will they be able to sleep?
omar Apr 22, 2012 07:08am
so true and its really sad. :(
Wasif M. Khan Apr 22, 2012 07:55am
The media is just as, or more rotten in its ethics and values than the country it belongs to. They have an extra punch...the ability to trash and sensationalize everything EXCEPT their own meretricious conduct. Truly sad and despicable that even in someone's darkest hour they cannot reflect and think about what it is that they are trying to achieve with such horrible practices.
Amjad Wyne Apr 22, 2012 09:18am
The respectable author repeatedly refers to "we"...may I ask who is "we". It is not "we" that need to learn. Responsibility to fix national issues lies with the national leaders and they are not a part of "we". Pointing fingers towards the empty space "we" is not going to get us anywhere.
SHAIKH Apr 22, 2012 10:27am
Cyrus Howell Apr 22, 2012 11:03am
What is the point of that? It is all in the hands of Allah. Everything is written.
Ayaz Abbasi Apr 22, 2012 11:35am
Aap kaisa feel kar rahe rahe hain is tragedy ke baad? The sickest question ever!!
raazia Apr 23, 2012 08:06am
i am failed to get what pride they feel in giving such senseless news!
Dilawar Apr 22, 2012 12:15pm
This is the first time I have seen a real comment. Thank you Amjad.
Dilawar Apr 22, 2012 12:21pm
Nothing has changed and nothing will change. Just read rest of the News in this paper and it is politics as usual. People get the government they deserve. Do you think all this rave and rants will make a dent in anything. We have a confederacy of dunces running a muck.
Amjed Mahmood Apr 23, 2012 12:53pm
our news media is bringing all kinds of problems to public but will not follow through afterwards. Its just for there rating they care. Whats happend is good for them. who care after that \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
Riaz Khan Apr 23, 2012 12:54pm
It's in our genes! Have we learnt anything from checkered history? We keep on making the same mistakes again & again & again. We do not know what pre-emptive measures are. We keep on fighting the same enemy knowing fully well it's 7 times bigger & stronger than us & everytime, we are defeated very convincingly. Muslims have learned nothing from their past mistakes!
Sanjiv Apr 23, 2012 04:45pm
Life is cheap in the subcontinent do there is little concen for safety. Corruption that pervades ll aspects of our lives does not help either. Lastly, if negligence is responsible, hardly anyone gets punished. Cest a vie as the French say.....
naz Apr 23, 2012 09:36pm
i agree with the writer 100%. plz do not torture the relatives of those ppl who have suffered losses in plane crashes ...i fail to blv how these families allow the media walas to barge in their homes and ask silly questions during sensitive times.... secondly, our system unfortunately is messed up so much , that the innocent ppl of pakistan have to suffer again n again .....GOD SAVE OUR PPL!