‘Transport Minister should not have jumped the gun in Bidor helicopter crash episode’

Media consultant Endie Shazlie Akbar says it is always better to be correct than to be the first, as accuracy is key to sharing information, especially when it involves life and death.

Endie said this when asked about Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong’s statement earlier today that the pilot of the helicopter that crashed near Bidor in the northern Malaysian state of Perak, had been found alive.

However, those involved in the search and rescue (SAR) mission confirmed that the pilot of the Eurocopter EC120B – identified as Richard Chan, 58, from Hong Kong – was found dead at the crash site.

Wee’s original statement mentioned he had received confirmation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) that the pilot was found alive and that rescuers were working on recovering and moving the pilot safely to a hospital in Ipoh to be treated.

In another Facebook video later in the day, Wee contradicted himself when he said that he based his earlier statement on information from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and that he had contacted Perak police chief Datuk Mohd Yusri Hassan Basri, who informed him the same.

RMAF does not issue statements over matters related to commercial/civilian aircraft incidents. Its role, in this case, was simply to provide the authorities with the necessary assets and expertise to locate, secure, and recover the wreckage and survivors, or remains. Jurisdiction in this instance lies with the civilian authority – CAAM.

Mohd Yusri had also told a press conference that Chan died at the crash site.

“While speed of information is important in today’s fast-paced world, accuracy is even more imperative,” said Endie, who served as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s press secretary when the latter was prime minister from 2018-2020.

“Usually, those breaking the news – good or bad – are the people on the ground. Wee should have let those involved in the search and rescue operation lead the way instead of jumping the gun.”

Endie added that it was also best to verify information with two or three agencies first, before making any announcements.

“In my experience, ministers should have a proper briefing from authorities before releasing any statements,” he said.

“Their words carry weight.”

Separately, senior media practitioner M. Zulkifli A. Jalil said he was confused about the pilot’s fate, as he thought he was safe and sound.

“The media quoted Wee’s statement that the pilot had been found alive. I was so happy, but joy turned to sorrow when I found out he had died at the scene,” said the founder of YouGo Training and Media Consultancy.

“When it comes to matters of life and death, any information has to be 100 per cent accurate before it goes out.

“We must be mindful and sensitive as it is an emotional time for the family and his colleagues. The crash happened yesterday, and they were anxiously waiting for updates.”

Zulkifli, the former managing editor at Malay news website Getaran, added that there was no point in scoring social media points by releasing information quickly, when at the end of the day, it is not accurate.

“Now, many are talking about this gaffe instead of the crash. Why make yourself the news?” asked the former magistrate.

“This should serve as a lesson to everyone on social media. Always verify before you share.

“As we say in our training sessions, every piece of information must be corroborated,” he added.