Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Facts vs rumour

Too much media coverage of EgyptAir Flight 804 has descended to the level of rumour-mongering, writes Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Though the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 is ongoing, Egyptian and Western media have been busy speculating about why the Airbus jet plunged into the Mediterranean.

Many media reports on the accident are based on inaccurate information and in some cases no information at all. The most obvious example was CNN’s report hinting that the passenger plane’s pilot has committed suicide.

“It is appalling that CNN has insinuated the pilot committed suicide as families are still mourning,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid tweeted on Friday.

On 21 May CNN published “four scenarios on EgyptAir Flight 804” on its website. One of the scenarios it identified was that the pilot had deliberately crashed the plane.

“There have also been two occasions in recent years when pilots themselves have been blamed for intentionally crashing their planes — in each instance when their co-pilot was out of the cockpit,” said the report.

Social media users have criticised CNN and other news outlets ‎for promoting “insensitive” theories.

“Shame on CNN for insinuating pilot suicide in EgyptAir crash MS804. What kind of informed reporting is this?” said Mustafa Mowafak on his Twitter account.

“How come CNN says that the pilot committed suicide with no evidence? It is disrespectful to the family of the pilot,” posted Amr Hamdon.

A screenshot of an article in the Los Angeles Times was widely shared on Twitter and Facebook. It too drew the anger of social media posters.

“It’s also possible that a pilot may have tried to commit suicide by intentionally crashing the plane, the cause of several crashes in the past,” said the Los Angeles Times article.

The article made the claim in the context of reviewing all possible causes of the crash.

“A bomb may have exploded inside the aircraft but an explosion at 37,000 feet likely would have caused disintegration of the plane,” said the article.

It also suggested that a hijacker may have tried to commandeer the aircraft, resulting in a struggle in the cockpit.

“That might explain why the plane reportedly veered sharply left and then again to the right before it began to fall. But that situation probably would have generated a distress call.”

Following the CNN and Los Angeles Times reports, EgyptAir has called on media outlets to be more “considerate” to the families of those lost when EgyptAir Flight 804 plunged into the Mediterranean.

EgyptAir said families of the victims had told airline officials on Saturday that some of their relatives’ names were being used in the media and online to solicit donations, which the families found unacceptable.

EgyptAir Chairman Safwat Moslem and Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel met with families of the victims on Saturday at a hotel near Cairo International Airport. The families were briefed on the process of recovering the bodies of those killed in the crash.

The EgyptAir crash is very sensitive issue for the Egyptian and French governments. If it should turn out that a terrorist caused the crash, France’s security reputation would be compromised just weeks before the EURO 2016 football tournament which France is hosting.

Charles de Gaulle Airport, the last stop of MS804, is due to receive thousands of football fans next month to attend EURO 2016. If the crash is found to have been the result of security failures at the airport many governments will issue travel warnings until screening procedures have been thoroughly reviewed.

For the Egyptian government, the crash has provided an opportunity to correct any mistakes in the handling of last year’s downing of a Russian aircraft in Sinai.

Within hours of the disappearance of Flight MS804, EgyptAir and the Ministry of Civil Aviation began releasing all available information in Arabic and English. On Thursday afternoon Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathi held a press conference to announce what was known so far and spent more than hour answering the reporters’ questions.

The army has adopted a similarly policy of transparency and has released photos of the search operations on a daily basis.

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