Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: April Fools’ Day and the Deceptive Hijacker | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yes, the EgyptAir hijacking episode ended happily after it became clear that the Egyptian hijacker was not wearing a vest packed with explosives and was only carrying a small bottle of perfume on his person- an item that is allowed on board. The hijacker tried to give his story a romantic dimension which was completely denied by his Cypriot ex-wife. More importantly, there was no loss of life and many people considered what happened as resembling a horror film. After watching the film and all were saved from the disaster, people left the cinema and breathed out a huge sigh of relief.

All aviation experts commended the behaviour of the pilot and all crew members, especially the air-hostess that played the role of a psychological doctor to placate the hijacker and prevent him from doing anything else that would complicate the situation further. The incident passed by quickly and may provide the plot for a book or two as it involves a lot of ironic comedy, such as the “selfie” that the hijacker was keen to take with a passenger and which helped to swiftly identify him. However, there is no doubt there the media made fatal errors in their frenzy to find out the truth.

Websites and satellite channels were embroiled in false reporting as the press usually does whilst covering an incident. Everyone made sure to write the name of the perpetrator and if they did not know it, they made one up. For example, they wrote the name of a doctor and university professor before his family refuted the story. Not content with this, they published a picture of his Cypriot ex-wife, or so they thought. It later turned out that the picture was of a female Egyptian broadcaster working at a channel abroad. Eventually they published a real picture of his ex-wife, who not only exposed the hijacker but also exposed the false information provided by the websites. They did not care about the tens of innocent people that they embroiled in their quest, or their feelings.

Throughout history, the press has often fallen victim to this kind of news and the advent of the internet has increased the oppressiveness of embroilment. In the past, an error in the press would have been made fun of amongst journalists, and I fear that with the passing of time we will consider correct and accurate news an exception that is subject to ridicule. The journalist who hastens to report news and thus destroys his credibility reminds me of the male bee in the hive who dies after impregnating the queen bee. The problem is that professions have become full of these bees. No matter how many mistakes they make, after the astonishment has died down, they circle the queen in the sky. Lying is no longer limited to the first of April. It seems that every day of the year has become the first of April!