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6 Apr, 2014

MH370 Tragedy: Test Of Malaysia’s Capability To Manage Media

By Rosmarie Khoo Mohd Sani dan Soon Li Wei

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -6 April 2014 – The incident of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 aircraft since March 8, has put the country’s capability to manage local and international media to test to ensure the news is correct, accurate and verified.

Information Department director-general, Datuk Ibrahim Abdul Rahman said the incident exposed the need of various government agencies to review their standard operating procedures (SOP) including the Information Department itself to provide more effective service in future.

“All agencies played their roles well as they have their own SOPs in place to handle this major crisis and what we learnt from this episode is to further improve our SOPs in managing the media centre,” he told Bernama.

On the challenges faced by the department, Ibrahim said as the main reference centre for the whole world to obtain information on flight MH370, it was important to ensure only verified information was disseminated to journalists.

“The process of official information delivery was carried out in several stages starting with the technical committee, which was conducting the investigation followed by the screening and verification of information before being channeled to the communication team to prepare the texts for announcement at a media conference,” he said.

Ibrahim said the department set up the media centre after receiving a directive from the National Security Council (NSC) to co-ordinate information delivery and assist the media in their coverage and to obtain correct information.

“After getting the NSC’s order on the crisis, we established a media centre at Sama-Sama Hotel near KL International Airport (KLIA) and later shifted to Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) to assist the media,” he said.

Ibrahim said the department also provided the full original transcript and translation apart from the video recording of each media conference at the centre which was also uploaded into the official website, Facebook and Twitter by the Information Department to assist the media understand the search and rescue mission.

“For journalists, especially those from China who do not understand English, our officers sought the assistance of local Chinese media to assist,” he said.

He said the department also played a role in monitoring news worldwide from the day the incident took place.

“We collected a total of 170,000 global headlines from print and portal sources to date on news relating to flight MH370,” he said.

Ibrahim said even though the media centre would be concluding its operation next Tuesday, the department would continue to disseminate information through e-mail and media statement.

“Since the media centre went operational over round-the-clock, 18 media conferences were held at the first location at Sama-Sama Hotel starting from March 8 to 22 and from March 23 to April 4 at PWTC,” he said.

Fifty information officers were assigned daily in three shifts to manage the media centre.

“A total of 281 news agencies and 620 media personnel from both domestic and foreign media used the service of the media centre,” he said.

Flight MH370 was carrying 227 passengers with 12 crew members when it went missing from the radar screen while flying over South China Sea on March 8, one hour after departing KLIA at 12.41 am.

The aircraft was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 am on the same day.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on March 24 announced that flight MH370 ended in south Indian Ocean, 17 days after the Boeing 777-200ER disappeared.