Media pressure, and particularly the posting of unverified stories on social media, has become a significant factor in major maritime search and rescue (SAR) events, according to Bruce Reid, CEO of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF).
Planning and preparation remain the key to dealing with mass rescue operations and other complex incidents, Reid told attendees of the Second Asia Pacific Regional Development Meeting.
“Never before has the maritime SAR sector been as exposed or visible as it is today. Seconds after incidents occur texts are sent, photos uploaded and opinions posted,” said Reid. “The challenge we face is that social media are becoming the first source of news. This is a problem, because there is risk that what is posted, is difficult to authenticate; provides only a snapshot of a small part of what are complex operations; and, most importantly, creates information flows that can hinder the SAR. Political pressures fed by misinformed social media campaigns can have deleterious effects on the SAR effort.”
The events surrounding the tragic sinking of the Korean ferry MV Sewol were used by Reid as an example to support this view. The public pressure and scrutiny from the first minute of this accident was unprecedented and should, he said, be reviewed by every authority responsible for coordinating incidents on this scale to ensure they have the structures and plans in place to handle this exposure.
“There is no problem with scrutiny and visibility, but in the middle of a major incident the last thing the rescue authorities need is social media posts being quoted as facts, ‘experts’ providing opinions from a world away and politicians pressuring their authorities while the search and recovery is still underway,” said Reid.
Press Release; Image: Indian Navy