Why was Sabah media barred from talking to survivors?
Published on: Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Former PBS Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad (pic) has questioned the rationale for allowing a foreign TV crew to enter Sabah and interview victims of the capsized catamaran incident but bar local media practitioners from doing so. She said there certainly must have been an "order" to bar Sabah journalists from interviewing the victims of the tragedy that occurred off Pulau Mengalum on Jan. 28.

On the other hand, she noted, that China's Central China Television (CCTV) had a field day filming and interviewing the survivors in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

"This is discrimination'. How could we allow the foreign press to come in and exercise its power on our soil to the exclusion of local media? I think this is grossly unfair. Perhaps the China Consulate here can explain," she said.

While conceding that we should respect the privacy of the survivors, Ariah said the Sabah media fraternity is a responsible and respectable one as has been expressed by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

"The local press is known to exercise fair reporting. If you say something 'off the record', they (journalists) will respect your wish. If you tell them not to show the victims' faces, they will cooperate.

"The concerned public share the grief of the victims' families as the tragedy happened on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. I don't see why they (China authorities) cannot trust our people," she lamented.

"Having been a journalist before, if I were subjected to a blanket ban order when I am not at fault, I would certainly find it hard to accept."

She also reckoned that the catamaran capsize tragedy would not have occurred had the affected tourists been briefed on safety procedures by the Consulate.

"By right, they should have advised them against using the services of any illegal boat operator or illegal jetty or vessel that has a history of problems," she said.

In the 10am tragedy on January 28, a tourist boat ferrying 28 Chinese nationals and three crew members capsized while travelling to Pulau Mengalum, 56km northwest of Kota Kinabalu, from the jetty at Kg Tanjung Aru Baru.

The immediate reaction of the authorities was to demolish a fishermen's jetty in Tg Aru although it was not the one which the ill-fated catamaran passengers departed from that day.

"In this matter, I appreciate the investigative reports carried out in the Daily Express as it managed to find out that these tourists bought their tour packages dirt cheap on the internet without knowing what awaited them over here.

"The paper also managed to delve into the history of the catamaran, including that it had a history of problems and had been salvaged from a previous capsize.

"These important details were never challenged and should, in fact, have been raised in the court hearing involving the vessel's owner," she said.

"If what was reported by the paper about the boat were indisputable facts, then it was insane to load 32 people on such a vessel and go on a four hour return journey in choppy waters. They were literally on a floating coffin." - Mary Chin


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