Niki Cheong is blogging

MH370 and a few seconds on BBC Newsnight

Since the MH370 plane went missing two weeks ago, I have updated my personal Facebook profile regularly with summaries and commentaries related to the incident.

Initially, I did it to share with my friends some of the news bits I found – some of which were debunked many of the things they were sharing (especially speculation and rumours). Admittedly, I also did it to get some of them thinking as well in terms of the things they were saying especially with regards to how the incident was being handled by the Government and the communications that have come out from MAS and the authorities.

One a few occasions, friends who have read my post suggested that I post them on my blog – not just for more people to read – but also so that we could have more discussions on here. I have refrained from doing so because my posts, I believe, were written for the people on my friends list – which included a couple of friends and family of those on board the missing plane.

However, late last night/early this morning, a segment on the plane was aired on BBC Newsnight in the UK. The team had paid me a visit a couple of days ago for an interview. In the end, only a few seconds of the interview was aired and as with all news stories (whether print or online), the quote that fits the angle of the story best will be used. You can view the video above this post.

BBC Newsnight camera

It was telling that a friend in London texted me before the segment aired to say, “I doubt you will be on Newsnight as they are leading with a story that your Government HAS been withholding information.”

I will let the video speak for itself, but I am not surprised that only that bit made the cut although I was hoping that they would have used a bit of the other things that I spoke about. After all, the conversation between myself and the journalist Jim Reed was easily 30-40 minutes long, at least 20-30 minutes of which were recorded on camera.

The line they ended up using, I think, was a response to a question about general perception of distrust with the Malaysian Government over the years and if people are more likely to turn to online news considering mainstream media is known to be Government-controlled.

But there were many other discussions as well – the state of media in Malaysia (in which I spoke about ownership, legislation and self-censorship), the echo chamber that is social media (although, admittedly, it has been given much attention from both authorities and media alike), the political undertones associated with this incident considering that we have a “controversial” by-election coming up and more. I also said that amid the unfortunate circumstances, this incident has brought Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein back into the limelight again.

Other things I mentioned were my general feeling about how people were reacting on the Internet, the speculations and criticisms and how I didn’t think they were all completely fair. But those are issues I’ve already addressed in my Facebook posts so I’m going to share two below, which captured some of my sentiments mentioned in the interview which weren’t aired.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 10.04.01 AM

Posted on March 20th, approximately 6.30pm.

Tonight, I should (unless they edit me out) appear on BBC Newsnight talking to Jim Reed about reactions on social media in relation to the missing plane, as well as the sentiments online in response to the Government’s SAR efforts.

I’m not sure which parts they will use and edit out but I already know that some of the things I said will be disagreed with by many people, if conversations I’ve had¬†over the past couple of weeks with people via Twitter and Facebook are anything to go by.

My stand is still that in general, the communications have been relatively constant (and improving by the day) and that severe criticism and accusations of Government withholding information is, to me, not something I’d participate in. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that in an effort of this scale, that they really are doing their best. As I mentioned in a previous post, if and when we have facts that dictate otherwise, then the appropriate criticism will follow.

Could things be improved? Sure. But are they doing a bad job? I don’t know (and for the moment, don’t think so). I also mentioned in the interview that for someone like me who have been scouring for news and not just reading what comes my way, there hasn’t been that much contradictions as suggested and that the media themselves have to take responsibility for much of these.

Today, my timelines were buzzing again since mid-morning with news of satellite images from the Australian government which might be related to MH370. I missed the afternoon press conference (evening where the PC was held in Australia) but managed to catch it just a while ago before watching the regular 5.30pm PC with the Malaysian authorities.

My personal take is that the acting Transport Minister is becoming more and more in control of the situation (or at least in handling the press, something I also mentioned in the interview in that such attention is – pardon the pun – foreign to us and that this is a learning experience). I think it’s also good that today, they’ve acknowledged the handling of the families that barged into the PC yesterday (the MAS CEO did appear terribly affected by it).

Having said all that, there’s been a lot of talk about how good Australia is at handling this compared to Malaysia. I don’t know about you but to me, the way they reacted and dealt with the press seems similar in style – tell what you know, abrupt answers for obvious questions, repeat that some things are unverified and admit when you don’t have the answers. The only difference for me was that the Australians were more articulate in English.

I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that we might have found the plane. Those images of distraught family members being carried away yesterday haunted me throughout the night. My heart really goes out to them.

But it is also because of them (I have people on my friends list who have relatives and friends on board the plane) that I have minimised my posting on this issue, only because for me, there is no point commenting on anything when there are no new updates. Most things else are speculation and unverified theories and I’d rather leave that to the experts and those investigating.

Posted on March 13, approximately 6pm.

Just caught latest PC on Astro Awani. PC being coordinated in a much more organised manner than previous days – might be a little late but I think this is a learning process for everyone. Personally think it’s great to reduce number of people responding (felt yesterday that that the military officers weren’t quite up to par in responding questions live).

Unfortunately, all leads (or rumours) from today including satellite images from China (accidentally released, unverified and search in the area found nothing) and reports on data coming in hours after claimed last contact (Rolls Royce and Boeing denies receiving those data, according to MAS) has still not brought us any closer to finding the airplane.

I’m limiting my sharing of information/news because I think there are enough people posting things (and many without verifying or looking further into the particular topic) and don’t want to add to the confusion.

My personal take on frustration with misinformation is that there is no way to stop it in this digital world we now live in, and as such, we have to take it upon ourselves to take responsibility for what we share and that includes actively verifying in best way possible a particular post we’ve read or come across before sharing it.

A tweet is not just a tweet, and an update is not just an update. News is news. So if we’re going to share anything, we sure as hell better be confident about what we’re sharing.

And we’ve not even considered the culture of disinformation yet.

10.02am Malaysian time (+8 GMT)

Discussion (1)

There is one response to “MH370 and a few seconds on BBC Newsnight”.

  1. Stephen Lee responded:

    · Reply

    I saw the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PCNEhWTo6Z8 , very cool, and also valid points kind sir, your looking well Niki =)

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