Local journalists reflect on media coverage of earthquake in Haiti
Central News Agency
2010-02-12 06:14 PM
Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) A Taiwanese journalist said Friday that reporters should have put themselves in the shoes of survivors of the devastating Haiti earthquake when covering rescue and relief efforts there and better communicated the reality on the ground.

"When rescue teams were about to conduct their mission, they were warned of widespread rioting and were told they had to be careful, " said China Times Group reporter Liu Ping when commenting on the difference between Haiti as it was reported and the actual situation.

"But other reporters and I figured out that if these teams encountered victims, were the victims going to rob the teams of their shovels or life saving devices? " he told a workshop organized by Taiwan's national Central News Agency (CNA) and Awakening News Networks.

"Everyone was trying to survive, because they were looking for food and water, " the Washington-based correspondent said. "If there was more empathy in news reporting, the perspective would be different." Liu also lashed out at peacekeeping troops in Haiti. He said the troops told Taiwan's second rescue team not to go outside because it was not safe, but what the reporter saw were people who were staring over airport walls at the relief goods they hoped to receive as soon as possible.

Lin Shen-hsu, a CNA reporter who volunteered to cover the aftermath in Haiti, said some media outlets distorted the truth by reporting that local people in Haiti were too poor and were eating mud cakes as a result.

"Reporters should have used common sense and figured out that these people could have just eaten dirt instead of buying mud cakes, especially when they had no money," he said.

"After a looking into it, we realized that mud cakes were a kind of local specialty that helps pregnant women get mineral nutrients, " the reporter explained.

Lin, who had never traveled abroad before visiting Haiti, said there were widespread reports of serious disorder and robberies, but he did not feel that the situation was that bad.

"When supermarket buildings collapsed, a lot of food and goods were inside. Were you going to wait until the food went rotten? " he said.

Many people "robbed" the supermarkets because they had nothing to eat. "I don't consider it a crime," Lin said.

Huang Kwang-chun, CNA's former correspondent based in Panama who rushed to Haiti after the disaster, said that Haitians were particularly friendly toward people from Taiwan as Taiwan has provided much aid to its diplomatic ally for years.

He also observed that bridges and buildings in Haiti constructed by Taiwan's Overseas Engineering and Construction Co. sustained no damage.

"I believe that this has left a good impression on the people of Haiti," he said at the workshop.

(By Alex Jiang)

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