MH370: Media in China to blame for emotions running high

In an era where social networking and interpersonal communication are expanding, the tendency to incite sentiments is what media practitioners, organisations, platforms and the public should be alerted to.

In terms of objectivity and credibility, there is a huge gap between the media in China (including both the online and social media) with the international ones. It is perhaps even more so over the reporting of MH370's disappearance.

The growth of the Chinese media and the role it plays in modern society has fallen far behind the rise of China's economy.

Over the past 20 days, many interpretations over the information provided by the Malaysian Government and the various other authorities lacked professionalism.

The interpreted versions are way off course. Some have twisted the original message and magnified whatever information they have received or heard for the sake of sensational journalism.

The corrections made by the Malaysian officials were conveniently then termed as "contradicting statements" or "attempts to hide the truth" and a manipulation of public opinion.

The people were not provided with rational, objective and realistic reporting.

Whatever kudos the media deserve was in the way they reported next-of-kin's feelings. The 239 lives, including those of the 154 Chinese nationals, are the key focus.

The hope, despair, expectation, grief, doubt and anger displayed by the families are understandable. They make us value life more. These have invariably put pressure on the Malaysian Government to work even harder.

When an incident involves tragedy involving many, criticisms must be done professionally and responsibly. In its desperation, look how the Chinese media interpreted the events that took place 10 days ago - a majority of the Chinese people came to believe that the passengers on board might have indeed survived the ordeal.

Most of the media and their audiences, except in China, will understand that the Malaysian Government simply does not want to rule out the possibility of survival in the early stages.

This was because Malaysia was taking things carefully and responsibly. Even so because the initial analyses of the search and information were uncertain. And, most importantly, it was to show respect to the family members and the lives of their loved ones.

However, the information was selectively chosen and sensationalised by the Chinese media, even pointing to assumptions that lives were not lost after all in the MH370 tragedy. The Chinese media misled the public so much so that the families waited with hope. And this made it even worse for the next-of-kin to take the heart-breaking news that the airlines ended in the Indian ocean.

Who gave the next of kin hope in the first place? The Chinese media, of course.

Accusing the Malaysian Govern-ment of making contradictory statements is grossly doing the country injustice. The mainstream media should understand the unprecedented complexity of the entire incident. They should think rationally, if possible scientifically, too. Information received must be double-checked and corroborated as often as these can, especially over analysis of satellite data.

With the mounting pressure on the Malaysian Government to release information, it did so too quickly at times that in some instances, these had to be corrected or rejected as a whole a few days later.

And, one cannot simply accuse Malaysia of deliberately hiding the truth.

Suspicions over whether or not the Malaysian Government had enough evidence before it announced that the aircraft ended in the southern Indian Ocean were creations of mainstream websites and the conventional media. And, they are also guilty of the calls to boycott Malaysia's tourism and trade, too. They merely took advantage of and capitalised on the emotions and nationalistic sentiments of the Chinese people.

Wild conspiracy theories, such as the plane being shot down by the military were rife in the same media groups. In the war between the two forms of media groups, no one is able to have the upperhand in their debate over the theories.

As for speculations that the United States was helping the Malaysian Government to conceal the truth, most of the mainstream media is unable to give an effective rebuttal to such conspiracy theory because it is not attractive enough to attract their audiences.

However, some of them still resort to playing up such a theory in order to get more mileage.

The emotional and sensational reporting has basically bared the core characteristics of China, which has in recent times lost rational values and propogated popular believes and nationalism in its pursuit of fast-track successes.

The incident is far from over. We are not only concerned about the 239 lives lost but also the advancement of the Chinese media and society through this incident.

May they rest in peace.

This article was published on Phoenix TV’s website The writer is a columnist of the website.