Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s government-controlled media has lashed out at Channel Nine for airing allegations that a woman and her friend were entertained in the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines flight by co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, who is among the missing aboard flight 370.
Johan Jaffar, chairman of Kuala Lumpur media company Media Prima described the publication as “gutter journalism, one-sided and based on hearsay.”
In the cockpit mid-flight: Jonti Roos, Jaan Maree and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, right. Photo: A Current Affair
Nuraina Samad, former managing editor of the New Straits Times, said she was saddened by the report that went to air in Australia on Tuesday evening and then went viral around the world.
‘”It made me cringe. It is bad journalism and in bad taste,” she said.
Azman Ujang, former editor in-chief of the state news agency Bernama said freedom of the press should not be abused.
“The media has to be responsible. The pilot is not around to defend himself,” he said.
“They are taking advantage of the situation and trying to pick on MAS (Malaysia Airlines), he said.
“Throughout the whole flight they were talking to us,” Jonti Roos said in the interview. “They were actually smoking, which I don’t think they are allowed to be doing. And they were taking photos of us in the cockpit while they were flying. I was just completely shocked, I couldn’t believe it.”
Jaan Maree and Jonti Roos on board the plane.
A Current Affair showed images of the young women in the cockpit smiling with the Malaysia Airlines pilots. The passengers were present for both takeoff and landing, Ms Roos said.
“I know for the whole time they weren’t facing the front of the plane and actually flying,” she told Channel Nine. “Possibly a little bit sleazy – they asked us if we couldn’t arrange our trip to stay in Kuala Lumpur for a few nights so they could take us out.
“When I realised it was the exact same co-pilot [as missing flight MH370] … that was quite shocking,” she said.
Channel Nine has responded to the allegations from members of Malaysia's media saying that the report was "very plainly not ‘hearsay’ since it carried pictures of the event itself and a first person account of what actually happened."
Grant Williams, Executive Producer of A Current Affair in a statement said, "The young woman also made it clear she was not suggesting there was anything unsafe about the co-pilot’s behaviour."
Mr Williams said that while "countless theories" have been reported by global media organisations about the fate of the flight MH370, "our story simply demonstrated that one of the flight crew had a history of allowing civilians into the cockpit during flight, a practice which is prohibited."
"We considered that a legitimate factor worthy of mention as this mystery unfolds," he said.
Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari said his company does not condone the 27 year-old co-pilot’s behaviour.
International airlines rules strictly forbid passengers entering plane cockpits.
“We will not compromise with actions that will affect the integrity of an aircraft,” he said.
Meanwhile Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak said people in his predominantly Muslim country must have patience and pray as the search for the plane drags on.
He said Muslim were taught that every event was determined by God, and to accept the fate as Allah’s will.
“We must face this great challenge from Allah calmly and we must try our best , with all the resources and strength that we have. This is what the government is doing,” he said.