The Dawn Blog » Blog Archive » What could not be recovered from the crash site

Just the way you wouldn’t hand weapons to an untrained army, you wouldn’t hand cameras and a press pass to untrained media representatives. However, fact of the matter is that time and time again we are reminded that the latter has been taking place in Pakistan almost constantly.

A country expects its army to protect and defend them and similarly a country expects its media to responsibly broadcast news to them.

What we saw yesterday in the wake of an enormous national tragedy was not responsible reporting. We could not even wait a few hours before we started looking for suspects to pin the blame on. We couldn’t even wait to verify the death toll before reporting that there were 40 survivors. We couldn’t even let a day pass before inviting talk show guests to discuss conspiracy theories. And most of all, we couldn’t even focus on what the language we were using must sound like to a grief stricken nation.

Yes, 152 people died in the Margalla Hills. They perished. Their families are grieving. The rescue teams and media personnel who saw the crash site first hand must also be grieving. But we are a hasty nation. We want results, we want culprits named and we want to suck every emotion and thought out of your mind when we get a hold of you. And for all of that, we will tell you that the black box was found, even though headlines this morning state that is not the case. We can not play with people’s hopes and emotions – how do you even expect a nation to trust you?

Shoving the mic in the faces of crying relatives, the media asked “How do you feel?” How do you think they felt, respected colleagues? What was a reporter thinking when she boasted about running barefoot to be the first one to ‘break the news’ for her channel?

Later at night, news channels could have easily invited weather experts, CAA officials, air force pilots who fly in those areas, geologists to explain the terrain and possibility of survival, and impact experts – what we got instead were officials who discussed the possibility of planes being shot down near the no-go zone.

Anchors harassed Rehman Malik to explain what happened and how the tragedy took place. Why would you ask Rehman Malik this question? I understand he is a government official but he doesn’t even know how security lapses allow suicide bombs to go off everyday, so how would you expect him to explain the technicalities of a plane crash?!

Perhaps we have become used to covering terrorist attacks in the most blatant way possible but we could have shown some sensitivity here. Since there was nothing but debris to show on the screens, cameraman panned the tattered chequebooks and broken make-up kits of the crash victims. Yes, because if I had just been killed in a horrible accident, my family would definitely want to see my belongingness scattered next to my remains.

The pilot of the “doomed flight” is not sitting at home with his family. Neither is he facing an investigation of the accident. He is among the dead too. He has a family too. He was not a terrorist who wanted to take a plane full of people down with him. But we didn’t consider that when we immediately starting pointing out his age, his fatigue and his medical conditions. Even if there was a problem or a mistake at his end, lets wait for CAA and Air Blue’s official statements and investigation results before brandishing him as the one responsible for the tragedy.

Hundreds and thousands of us have travelled this airline before and because of their safe landing, we are sitting in front of our computer screens today. Yet all of a sudden we are complaining on public forums about what terrible landings travellers of the air line have to face. Guess what angry people – tons of flights often have bad landings but you cannot use that excuse to justify what happened yesterday.

I believe we are a curious nation but I do not believe we are an insensitive one. The prayers, the tears and the shock yesterday proved we have emotions – television channels played with those emotions yesterday. They didn’t realise that a mother of a victim was in shock before asking her what her daughter was like in person. They didn’t realise that flashing “honeymoon couple dead” on their tickers, would not be any more hard-hitting that the deaths of all of those who were not on their honeymoon.

I expect illiterate people or unbothered citizens not to read this but the media can and should read this. What are you doing? I may be just a few years old in this field and I may not understand the implications of being in a media rat-race, but nothing can justify what we did yesterday. Instead of giving the nation the sensitive and true reports it needed, we gave them traumatizing visuals and crude commentary.

I have spoken out loud about media ethics before but never have I felt as embarrassed as I do today to be considered a part of this ‘industry’. If any one in a position of authority understands this, take action and train your team. It’ll be the best public service you could do for a nation of lost souls.

Shyema Sajjad is the Deputy Editor at

This article was published on The Dawn Blog.


5 thoughts on “The Dawn Blog » Blog Archive » What could not be recovered from the crash site

  1. Zol Sheikh July 29, 2010 / 10:39 pm

    Very well written,the points focused over here are very rare and they are very realistic indeed.It’s really a very touching article over here and I’ll do my best to promote this voice of yours.Hats off to Miss Shyema Sajjad…….brilliant!


  2. jen July 30, 2010 / 9:35 am

    i could not agree more
    …we live outside pakistan, and to arrive home to ARY news where dr shahid masood and kashif abbasi are leading a bunch of middle aged blokes in what appeared like “muhallay ke auroton ke discussion” was extremely appalling..

    while watching as a viewer I felt I was not given an opportunity to mourn. dr masood was hell bent on suggesting the role of anti air craft guns, dismissive of the wealth of experience the pilot had , and was adamant on not trying to understand windshear and his ignorance and glaringly obvious lack of understanding of planes. i do give him some credit though for the lame REM sleep explanation he sputtered out.

    may i suggest to dr masood that next time he is reading about international standards for hiring and firing of pilots would he mind reading up some stuff on ethics and the role and responsibility of media personnel while covering tragedies like this or loss of lives.

    “jahaz to hawa mein he urta hay…” i can t undertand windshear..joked dr shahid masood..and this was after two people had attempted to explain the phenomenon. the news anchor person followed pursuit and repeated the animated joke to the expert while asking for his opinion.
    kashif abbasi…”aap eik kiya do sawal poochien”…jokes in the middle of transmission
    that is covering a national tragedy.

    i completely agree with the expert who was called in to make comments…(cudnt get his name.. retired AVM) that the discussion panel had stepped out of their limits. To look for a cause in a non scientific way by churning up one conspiracy theory after the other was very frustrating to watch.

    And as a qualified psychiatrist may i suggest to the bosses of ARY to please consider people with empathic skills, listening ability and common sense to cover tragedies or events involving loss of lives.


  3. jamila July 30, 2010 / 11:48 am

    watching the coverage of the tragedy in past few days has just made me realise how cruel our media has become. Does any body seriously thinks that going into the houses of grieving families and trying to extract words out of the distraught relatives was something any body sitting infront of tv was dying to watch.
    The other day in Nadia khan show some one called her to say not to blame the pilot as yet. Icould not believe what she said…..”log to batain karain gay “. what jahalat….but then may be this is what shes capable of. i think there should be some difference in people talking at “gali kay nukar” and so called qualified anchors discusssing matters on electronic media which millions of people are watching. i mean what if this is her father people are talking about. how could we be so insensitive.

    again the solution is we need education….at ALL LEVELS. May Allah help us as nation , we are just going down n down.


  4. Amanullah Khan July 30, 2010 / 3:00 pm

    I am so glad that Shyema Sajjad has pointed out media’s irresponsible reporting. I call it “jumping to conclusion” on every aspect of the cause of accident.Finding the true cause is a laborious work of a well trained team of Airline Accident Investigators. They would look into the possibilities of technical fault,engine problem, human factor aspect, sabotage and involving extensive witness interviewing etc. The area of accident should have been cordoned off. I wonder how the media people were allowed to roam around freely. I remember the lecture of one investigator of Lockerbie accident. He had said ,” we collected every piece of aircraft spread over an area of 5 miles, and you see this hearing-aid , I had lost it, and I was able to find it again.” I am sorry to say our Airlines pay little attention to proper Flight Safety.


  5. Huma Nazar July 31, 2010 / 1:50 pm

    I highly appreciate Ms. Shyema Sajjad for being mouthpiece of the sensitive and responsible citizens who really felt the way she did. I feel bad when the various TV channels’ newscasters/anchors emphasize more on their acting and style than that of realizing the content and nature of the news/event/issue. Moreover, they play with the victims’ emotions; detrack public opinion; intentionally or unintentionally misinterpret issues/events. They sound more like a drama actor than a responsible newscaster/anchor. To them News broadcasting is no more a public service but has turned into a business in which they add spices alongwith emotional blackmailing so that they get cheap fame and their channel does business like hot cakes. This is what they call “Azadi-e-Sahafat” . . .. Yes! dear news Channels’ so-called responsible authorities, learn the Common Sense which is the essence of your job; be yourself and stop copying the anchors/newscasters living across the border; be empathetic; adopt media ethics; stop laughing at others; never jump to conclusion before getting authentic proof or results; stop misinterpretation or boast off to win the race of being tagged as EXCLUSIVE; and care your words and body language so that none of us gets hurt and switche off TVs. I personally prefer AUTHENTIC newspaper and radio than watching blame games and disgusting actings of newscasters and anchors there on TV.
    For God sake! realize the sensitivity of the situation. Pakistan needs the RESPONSIBLE media and patient public. Believe me! being Patriotic and honest to your job costs you nothing but pays you more than your expectations.


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