News media holding strong 21 days into Kim killing saga

THARANYA ARUMUGAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Twenty-one days have passed since the audacious assassination of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2), but the media is still going strong in covering the high-profile case.

The morgue at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL), where the body of Kim Jong-nam is being kept, was once abuzz with the presence of over 100 international and local pressmen, and about 30 policemen, as a flurry of North Korean delegations and local authorities went in and out of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine.

It was where several major news stories broke last month.

For instance, now-expelled North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, held an impromptu press conference in front of the mortuary on Feb 18, when he condemned Malaysian authorities for not releasing the body of the dead North Korean citizen.

He had also suggested that Malaysia is trying to “conceal” something, at the urging of South Korea.

On Feb 21, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham held a press conference at the hospital, where he dismissed North Korea's claim that the deceased died of a heart attack.

However, activity seems to have died down at HKL, with reporters and photographers spending a quiet Sunday at the mortuary, where only the sounds of rain and passing vehicles could be heard.

Only 10 pressmen could be seen on site, most of them having arrived as early as 6am.

Some were staring blankly at the mortuary, while others were glued to their smartphones, or killing time by reading or playing card games.

Some of the more creative journalists put their drawing skills to good use by doodling on the zinc partition located adjacent to the morgue.

Pressmen expressed their thoughts and emotions on covering the 21-day developing story – and the long wait between breaking news alerts – using colourful chalk.

'Waiting for Jong-nam. Imagine there's no body (here)', one graffit goes.

'Masih lagi tabah' (Still going strong) says another.

'I'm looking for Jong-nam'; 'North Korean murder'; 'Until when(?); 'Send food.'

These were among the other messages scrawled on the zinc partition.

Pamphlets of restaurants offering food delivery are also plastered onto the zinc partition and inside the tents that were set up for media personnel a while back.

The tents were set up on Feb 13 by hospital authorities themselves, as they had taken pity on media members, who were standing for hours on end out in the open, with no facilities at hand.

The three tents were furnished with chairs and desks, allowing reporters to carry out their tasks with much less hassle.

Regardless of which news media organisation they were from – internationally-renowned or local and obscure – pressmen on duty at the morgue shared mosquito coils, food and drinks and extended helping hands in times of need.

The vigil continued today, although there were no signs of the North Korean delegation as of 6pm.

The morgue remains tightly-guarded, and anyone wanting to enter the premises is thoroughly questioned by the auxiliary police on duty before being allowed in.

Jong-nam was murdered on the morning of Feb 13 in what has been described as an elaborate and high-profile assassination. His assailants were two foreign women who were charged with his murder on Wednesday.

The news continues – for everyone involved.