What do you think of the media coverage of the Sanamxay flood?

After a flood devastated Sanmaxay district in Attapeu province in late July, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism set up a media centre in the area and arranged for teams from state-run media outlets, including Vientiane Times, to take turns in covering developments in the region. As part of the sixth team sent to the area, this reporter sounded out media staff about their experiences in this devastated region.

Reporters interview the Chief of Thasengchan village, which was badly flooded, at a camp set up to house displaced people in Bok village.

Mr Vannasin Simmavong, Head of the Information and Internet Division, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism: I was very happy to be assigned by the ministry to oversee reporters working in Sanamxay district to keep the general public informed of the situation here. The media centre is well managed and six teams of reporters and other staff have been covering developments since the centre was set up. I main contact and coordinate the agencies involved in the flood recovery effort, such as the Committee for Search and Rescue, the army, and provincial and district administrative committees, to ensure that media personnel can do an efficient job. I have been responsible for managing Lao and foreign reporters and instructed them about what they should cover. I also took reporters to flooded areas. It’s essential to have a news centre in Sanamxay district so that we can closely follow developments and pass on the correct information to the public. The media can convey an accurate picture of what’s actually happening here, which can counter false reports put out by some individuals. We need the media centre to keep a close eye on the situation and ensuring the correct information reaches the outside world. All personnel have worked hard. Despite the bad weather and the poor condition of the roads, they tried their best to get to flooded areas and gather information, photos and videos. We worked in cooperation with the provincial and district authorities. We had a well-organised system and were directed by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Each group of reporters was accompanied by a senior ministry official and there was good cooperation with local media and all groups involved.
Mr Chanthavone Khamphilavong, a reporter with Lao National Radio: I was very happy to report on the flood and contribute to the circulation of information about the situation here. We reported the facts so that the public would realise the gravity of the circumstances facing local people and would be assured about the need for donations. Some people had doubts about donating goods or money because they were afraid their donation would not reach the flood victims. So we interviewed the committee involved as well as homeless families and reported back to the public. Our work involved gathering information, taking photos and making videos. It was a very important mission for me and all other media personnel. Our work helped the public to clearly understand the situation. It isn’t good that some people published false news about the incident on social media, as this created confusion and misunderstanding. People should be careful when considering any news or information, particularly on social media, because many of the reports are not true. Only the information published by state-run media agencies is trustworthy.
Mr Siththiphone Rasphone, a reporter with the Paxaxon newspaper: I was glad to contribute to this important mission. Although what I did wasn’t very significant, it was important to get out the truth of the circumstances here. I volunteered to come here when my office asked for someone to go to the flood-stricken area. I followed my heart because I wanted to use my role as a journalist in a way that would benefit society. Coming here and regularly updating information on the status of the victims – such as their living conditions, their suffering, their feelings and wishes – meant that we could help them in some way. We also reported on the donations and assistance being provided by individuals and organisations. I would like to work here again if get a chance. I encourage all the people who have been affected by this tragedy to go on with their lives and fight to overcome this crisis. I hope their life returns to normal soon and urge everyone to continue to help the thousands of people in need here.
Mr Santisouk Souvannam, a reporter with Lao National Television: It was an honour to represent my agency by reporting on the conditions in this flood-hit region. I feel so sorry for people here because they are still suffering from the impact of the floods and have to live in crowded camps after their homes were damaged or destroyed. I hope they soon have better living conditions. We work together with local media and the authorities. It isn’t easy for reporters to work in these conditions - the weather isn’t good and the roads are blocked and muddy. But all reporters are doing their best to serve the public by providing up-to-date reports on the situation and the people who are suffering so much hardship.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update September 7, 2018)

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