Malaysiakini NEWS

Journalists: Why can't the relatives talk to us?

Lee Way Loon  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The Malaysian government has been put under the international media spotlight again for the manner in which it handled a chaotic situation yesterday, during  the daily press briefing on the missing MAS Flight MH370.

Some foreign journalists were surprised by the situation and they had no clue as to why the Malaysian authorities stopped the Chinese relatives of those on board the plane from speaking to the press.

Denmark’s TV2 correspondent Benjamin Kurstein said it was “very unfortunate” of the Malaysian authorities to handle the situation in the way they did.

“These people were clearly frustrated and they came here to expressed their frustration... I saw them being removed from the conference room.

“No matter whether this was to protect them, or it was to stop them from talking to the press, it is going to reflect very badly on Malaysia,” Kurstein told Malaysiakini yesterday evening.

Recalling what he had seen yesterday, he added, “There was almost fighting between the police and journalists.”

He believes there are better ways to handle a situation such as this.

“It is not for me to say how they should handle this, but I am pretty positive that the way they handled this situation was not smart,” said Kurstein, who is in Kuala Lumpur to cover the on-going missing Flight MH370 issue.

As to whether this incident went against press freedom, he reserved his comment. But Kurstein questioned why the Malaysian government did not allow the Chinese relatives to talk to the press.

“No matter what, it is important not to forget that this is a tragic story, especially for those who came here and are frustrated with the lack of information.

“It is a biggest tragedy in their life. We should not forget these are the traumatised people and I think they will be even more traumatised after witnessing a situation like this,” he said.

BBC video goes viral

Another journalist, Tom McRae from New Zealand's 3 News, said the Malaysian authorities should not have stopped the Chinese relatives if they wanted to speak to the press.

“(During the first commotion,) a number of police came and tried to stop them from talking or tried to get them out.

“The situation was like they are dragging and carrying the family members away. And one Chinese woman was actually screaming,” McRae recalled.

McRae said he had no clue as to why the Malaysia authorities handled the situation like this “unless they are withholding some sort of information”.

Chaos broke out at the auditorium used by the authorities for the daily press briefings on Flight MH370 yesterday evening, after a group of Chinese nationals barged in to speak to reporters.

Another round of commotion erupted when the families were escorted out of the media secretariat office under heavy police guard about 5.40pm.

Journalists were also manhandled and pushed away when they tried to approach the Chinese nationals as they were being taken to an upper floor.

A news clip uploaded by BBC, in which its journalist asked the police to explain the situation, went viral on cyberworld.

Commenting on this, Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweeted yesterday that he has ordered an immediate inquiry into the events in the press room.

Hishammuddin said he could empathise with what the families were going through and that one of the main priorities of the government was how to handle the families and their emotions.

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