China Muzzles Reporting on Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deeply regrets that the Central Propaganda Department of China continues to issue orders restraining the media from reporting on a Malaysian Airlines plane that disappeared on its way to Beijing last week and calls for China to allow free reporting on the incident. 

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board, but was reported missing from radar on Saturday, March 8. Ten countries sent search crews to the location in the South China Sea where it is suspected the plane went down. No wreckage has been found. The circumstances surrounding the plane’s disappearance, to date, remain a mystery with numerous theories being investigated.

The families of the 154 missing Mainland China passengers are waiting for information on loved ones, yet  the Central Propaganda Department has issued a routine order to all media demanding that they republish the reports of state-owned media house Xinhua.

The IFJ has learned that all Mainland media have been  restricted to relying solely on information from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and Xinhua news agency. No analysis, commentary or sceptical articles are allowed. So too, the Central Propaganda Department has ordered that online information is to be tightly controlled and that rumours and speculation be deleted. A Mainland journalist told the IFJ that the order is similar to those issued when disasters have occurred in the past.

“Journalists have a duty to find out the truth, particularly in a case such as this which involves a great deal of information from various sources. The media will do their best to verify all the information available, rather than accepting any interpretation given by one authority,” the IFJ Asia Pacific office said.

“It is deeply regrettable that Chinese authorities continue to use methods to such as these to control the flow of much-needed information, particularly for those desperately awaiting updates on the investigation.”

The IFJ urges the Chinese authorities to respect and understand the situation of all the family members of those missing and demands that the Central Propaganda Department remove the restrictive order.