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Jul 18, 2014

MH17: media coverage, from cutting-edge to conspiracy theory

The media coverage of the second Malaysia Airline's tragedy in six months ranges from measured to hysterical.

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Hope you’re ready — if other recent crashes are anything to go on — for wall-to-wall coverage of the downed Malaysian airplane. Crikey’s put together some of the most note-worthy media coverage so far.

Putin has put the blame for the crash on the Ukrainians, but the UK’s Sun wasn’t having a bar of it. Neither was the Daily Star, which also put the blame on Putin.

In Melbourne, the crash knocked the carbon tax repeal off the front page at the Herald Sun. As the tragedy broke, the Hun began preparing a special late edition, which arrived in the CBD at 9am. It appears to be the only Australian newspaper to have done so.

The plane took off from the Netherlands and carried 154 Dutch citizens. Dutch paper NRC stayed clear of the wreckage, instead depicting what remained of some of the passengers.

In The Telegraph, it’s noted that two Ukranian military aircraft have been shot down by surface-to-air missiles in the last four days.

“If Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was brought down by a missile, then the finger of suspicion would point towards the pro-Russian rebels. Put bluntly, they are the only side in Ukraine’s conflict which has been shooting down aircraft on a regular basis for several months.”

The Guardian notes how British commercial planes have been told to avoid the Crimea and parts of Southern Ukraine over safety fears. Current advice tells planes to not fly below 32,000 feet — the downed MH17 was flying 33,000 feet. Airlines polled by the paper said they were not “over-flying” the Ukraine, and hadn’t been for some time.

As a video clip does the rounds reportedly showing a leaked phone conversation between Russian rebel commanders discussing how they shot down the plane, anonymously-authored finance blog Zero Hedge urges caution. Noting the high-production values and media-friendly delivery, it concludes that “something here smells very fishy”:

“Almost exactly one year ago, the world was nearly brought to the verge of a global war by proxy involving the US and Russia (and Europe and China) over a staged, false flag YouTube clip “proving” the Assad regime had used toxic gas (gas that was made in Britain as it was later revealed) to kill several hundred civilians in the country’s ongoing war against what subsequently turned out to be al-Qaeda funded and trained rebels (and which now are fighting across the border with another former US-puppet state, Iraq) …

A year later, it is deja vu all over again, when the same energy and geopolitical tensions (Europe, natural gas, etc) are once again at the frontline, and while the theater of combat may be different, the same key players — Russia and the US — are once again behind the proxy conflict in Ukraine, and where Gazprom is once again the fulcrum party. The only missing link was a YouTube clip which would bring the world to the edge of war again.”

Speaking of conspiracies, here’s another one. Russian news sites are speculating Ukranian rebels may have been after Putin’s plane, which apparently looks similar to Malaysia Airlines plumage. NYMag summarises the coverage:

“Someone, the theory goes, tried to take down Vladimir Putin’s plane, but missed.”

The Atlantic notes how the shooting of the plane demonstrates the extent to which non-state actors and rebel groups now have access to highly sophisticated, advanced weaponry.

Whether or not it was a mistake, the incident could set a new precedent on the world’s battlefields. As governments have acquired better and better weapons, and either lost control of them as in Libya or given them away as in Russia, Abrahms says, “the quality of weaponry falling into the hands of these militants has gone way up.”

From the Washington Post, an optimistic view.

“… paradoxically, horrifying moments like this can also encourage government leaders to break from the status quo and its cycle of escalation — and think about ways to move back from the brink.”

This is all, of course, disastrous for Malaysia Airlines, which has lost its second plane this year. USAToday covered the airline’s difficulties:

“Malaysia Airlines was in dire financial straits even before losing a plane on March 8, and analysts said it may be difficult for the national carrier to continue after the latest catastrophe Thursday.”

But Vox says the airline’s problems started far earlier — its share-price has been falling for three years.

“… the financial problems at the airline are actually so big and longstanding that it’s difficult to lay the blame for its problems at the feet of these tragedies.”

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

Myriam has been Crikey’s media reporter since 2014. Before that, she was a business journalist with sister site SmartCompany, covering economics and corporate strategy.

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