Duty of the press: Defending Brunei Times.

In light of the recent tragedy that occurred in a primary school in Mabohai, whereby a teacher accidentally hit two children when reversing, that as we all know led to the tragic death of the two pupils. News of the tragedy spread throughout the country, and the local news outlet reported the incident. One of them, Brunei Times followed up the news and brought out something different. They showed photos of the mourning family members of the two victims and one photo even showed the Islamic-wrapped body of one of the victims.

I personally welcomed such kind of news reporting, to the extent that the photos shown in the Brunei Times front page was powerful enough to touch me. For me the report was as real as it can get. It serves as a 'moral of the story' kind of reporting, but at the same time producing objective and comprehensive news coverage. It was in depth, although noticeably reluctant in providing readers the full details of the accident e.g. the name of the teacher that drove the car (but understandable possibly due to health and security reasons) or what kind of car used.

Despite my appreciation to Brunei Times, others however have mixed feelings about it. Undeniably, I believe that us Bruneians aren't used to such tragic images shown in our local papers. Additionally, the close-knit nature of our population too contribute to the sensitivity of the news. And recent tweets and op-eds from Brunei Times have shown some of those dissatisfaction. Some argued that the photos aren't suitable to be printed as they might come as 'sensitive' and 'disrespectful'. To some extent, issues of privacy for the victims' family members needed to be addressed, instead of sensationalising it for the sake of newspaper sell-out.

Personally for me, its the kind of things that I feel common newspapers in Brunei are lacking. The media ethics that are socially and politically controlled too may contribute, as well as the local opinions on things are strong in our community sometimes restrict comprehensive news going out. If such tragedy occurs, and the news media reports it, they're accused of being disrespectful and not sensitive to the feelings of the individuals involved. Little do we realise that the role of journalists is to be objective and honest, therefore avoiding any personal opinions and offering news coverage for the benefit of readers. Yes, some news reports may come as sensitive, especially in our small close-knit society but its the inevitable nature of news reporting. Furthermore, I believe we are a curious society and that's proven based on the manner of the people in the social media like twitter and facebook (at least amongst me and my friends' facebook and twitter) reacted when friends and relatives posted about the incident in their newsfeed. All were asking whom involved and where the incident occurred. Is it not better to know about the news from the formal news outlet rather than the word of mouth?

With regards to the issue of sensationalism in the reporting, I would have to disagree with the accusation. Primarily because we all know, there is no point of sensationalising the tragedy and we know that based on our society and the way we were brought up. Again I would stress that the role of the news media is to report things and from what I see, Brunei Times did just that. Moreover, like I said earlier, the photos presented were appropriate enough for public viewing and that it had a powerful and 'moral of the story' impact on the readers, at least for me and plentiful of others.

The whole dissatisfactions from some factions of the public I believe are sincere in intention, rooted in our beautiful ethics and traditions of respect for the mourning, but for me this incident was too tragic not to report. Plus, in the whole fervor of Hari Raya celebration and the growing number of road fatalities presently, the news was unfortunately fitting to remind road users and motorists that accidents happen everywhere.

I applaud Brunei Times for their report despite knowing the consequences of our strong public opinion. As for the victims' family members, condolences for the loss of your loved ones. Al Fatihah.

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