The media's role in South Korea ferry disaster

The media's role in South Korea ferry disaster
South Korean coastguard officers transfer a body in a white blanket to another coastguard vessel as they recover the bodies at the site where the capsized passenger ship "Sewol" sank in the sea off Jindo April 20, 2014.

We are still holding onto a sliver of hope that, miraculously, survivors will be found even though more than 100 hours have passed since the Sewol capsized in the waters off Jindo Island Wednesday morning.

But these hopes are being brutally dashed not only by the excruciatingly slow rescue process, but by the animals of our society who see this as a money-making opportunity ― hence the smishing and disrespectful postings regarding the Sewol passengers.

It is up to the government, with the aid of the media, to hunt down these criminals and issue the necessary penalties.

Another critical line of duty the press has been enlisted with is to ensure its coverage does not in any way cause unnecessary grief or distress for the victims.

While the media appeared to be walking on eggshells to avoid aggravating the victims' families at Paengmok Port, one too many of the reports turned out to be false or unconfirmed.

The total number of people aboard the ship and those who were rescued, for instance, changed several times, and each time, the media blamed the government for inaccuracies.

But we are well aware we can't claim immunity because we should have refrained from releasing anything at all had discrepancies been suspected ― no matter how heated the competition was getting to cover the incident.

The false testimony from a civilian diver whose controversial remarks ― about why the government dragged its feet on rescue plans ― was another good example of exactly why the media should be more careful.

Further, the Defence Ministry is seeking an investigation against those claiming that the ferry collided with a submarine, and those who accused North Korea of having masterminded the sinking.

Nobody doubts that the government and the top military brass were far from efficient, and that those responsible must pay the consequences. However, false information will only makes things worse.

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