When to fact-check: 

1) When Captain Abid Sultan’s wife was declared dead way before she actually passed away on March 23

Afsana Khanam, the wife of the ill-fated plane’s pilot Abid Sultan suffered multiple strokes and was battling to survive in the intensive care unit of National Institute of Neurosciences and Hospital. She suffered her first stroke on March 18. Some time during the afternoon of March 19, on the day that Captain Sultan’s dead body was brought back to Bangladesh, social media posts appeared declaring her dead.  It was the perfect rumour – son (Tamjid Sultan) loses mother while at the airport to receive his father’s dead body. Except it was not true – Afsana was in a comatose state but she was not declared dead yet. The rumour only served as social media harassment for a family that has already lost so much. In a twisted turn of fate, social media’s morbid thirst for the perfect fairytale romance, was satiated on March 23, when Afsana Khanam was declared dead.

2) When flight attendant Nabila Farhin’s daughter was reported to be stolen by her domestic worker

Not just social media, but even national newspapers published reports stating that the daughter Hiya was abducted by the domestic worker. In an article The Daily Ittefaq stated that following the news of the accident, the domestic helper who used to take care of Hiya while her mother was at work, took the child and left the house. The newspaper was quoting an anonymous relative who posted on Facebook about the incident, but did not link to the post itself. It later turned out that the child was with her maternal grandmother.   

When not to fact-check

1) When Prithula Rashid was being called the “Daughter of Bangladesh”

Shortly after the plane crash on March 13, rumour arose that Prithula Rashid was being called the “Daughter of Bangladesh” for having saved the lives of ten Nepali passengers while sacrificing herself. Comparisons were drawn between her, and Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant who sacrificed her own life to save the lives of passengers aboard a Pan Am flight during a hostage takeover in 1986.   Debates arose about whether Prithula really did save the lives of other passengers. While it is true that the media claims about Prithula Rashid are indeed not well-sourced (for example, this article by The Daily Jugantor  which cites a Facebook page for the information), it may also be insensitive to call them out. This would only prove necessary should the label be translated into a real-life award specifically for “saving ten Nepali lives”.


2) Whether Captain Abid Sultan and co-pilot Prithula Rashid were at fault for crashing the plane

While it is indeed required that we find out whose role was what, during the plane crash, it is not necessary for media organisations or social media to be the juror. The black box has been found and the incident is currently under investigation. The Daily Star reported that the probe started on May 18, and is being jointly done by Aircraft Accident Investigation Group (AAIG) of Bangladesh, representatives of the aircraft and engine manufacturers, and Nepalese investigators. The team would decide where to decode the black box of the aircraft.

This has not stopped social media from calling out the two in the cockpit for crashing the plane.  A separate probe body comprised entirely of Nepalese representatives found “fault with the aircraft’s landing approach”.   This finding however does not put the blame on anyone until all the contents of the black box are examined





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