Everybody has heard about the mysterious vanishing of the Malaysia Airlines plane somewhere between Indonesia and South of China, but not much has been made about the living victims of this tragedy: the families and relatives of 239 passengers.
Many conspiracy theories, as well as imprecise and contradictory information from the Malaysian government, the Airline and International assistance have been disseminated. Latest investigations have found debris that might belong to the aircraft in the Pacific Ocean just west of Australia, during what is considered the largest searching in history. A terrorist attack, a hijacking or a bomb on board are the most likely causes of the disappearance. But the answer is still in the air.
Without any doubt, this catastrophe has received all the international help available to find out how a Boeing 777 has vanished. International intelligence agencies, such as Interpol, are still investigating and expanding the search with the hope that any clue leads to a reasonable explanation of this mystery.
Chinese government has made available 9 ships and 10 satellites in the search due to the majority of passengers were from China. Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam and up to twenty countries have also collaborated, although Malaysian government has been hardly criticized in social media platforms, especially in China, for its contradictory given information.
However, another side of the story that hasn’t been debated as much is the families of the victims. The relatives of 239 passengers –crewmembers inclusive – are sunk into frustration and anger for almost two months without any clear explanation. Furthermore, the lack of press freedom and consequently self-censorship by journalists and investigators in Malaysia has restricted the flow of information that authorities could access. The anxiety among relatives of passengers increased within this crisis.
According to Malaysian prime minister’s declarations for Al Jazeera, Malaysian Airlines has been constantly informing the families about the development of the investigations. After confirming that “beyond any reasonable doubt” there are no survivors, the relatives were left devastated. The airline proposed that all relatives go to Kuala Lumpur, and although some of them finally did, the proposition was rejected initially because they all wanted an explanation.
Reactions of anger
International media have given prominence to the particular case of a Chinese woman, who was trying to protest during a news briefing conference on the missing flight in Kuala Lumpur. The woman was crying her heart out while the security guards literally dragged her into a private room at the Malaysian press centre, without giving her a chance to talk to Chinese journalists. The image of dozens of journalists’ camera flashes lighting up this scene reminds us also of the perils of sensationalist journalism.
At the same time, officials removed banners criticising the Malaysian government as soon as they were shown, as this BBC report explains; relatives ended several meetings with Malaysian Airlines throwing punches and kicks, shouting “Murderers, murderers!” in Beijing; and similar chaotic scenes happened due to a lack of information while seeking for answers.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Prime Minister claims the media should show respect: “I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time”. Nevertheless, the families affected claim for the Malaysian government to apologise due to the announcements’ lack of evidences or sense of responsibility.
The wall of hope
On the 25th of April, most of Chinese relatives, anxious and tired of waiting at a Beijing hotel, have moved to the Malaysian embassy because still there is no conclusive answer. According to the BBC, they plan to stay there indefinitely, although they have already had some arguments with the security guards at the gates of the embassy.
Another way of expressing themselves has been through social media platforms. At the same time, some activists started an initiative to support all these helpless people called ‘the Wall of hope’. They built a place where anyone can leave a message of hope with the aim of “console, heal and support the families affected”, said Azrul Khalib for Al Jazeera, as representative of a civic platform called ‘Malaysians for Malaysia’. “We need to keep them alive by sharing our wishes, prayers and messages for them with the world. They are not just names on a passenger list. They are someone’s daughter, sons, fathers, mothers, friends and colleagues”, reads a post on the wall of its Facebook page.
Words by Ana Escaso Moreno