BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
Better to call it the biggest lie in Royal History. It is one that calls to question the sanity of some in the media and yet another challenge to journalism and the radio as respected avenues for passing information to the people. The events that led to the suicide of Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, is not only outrageous but also obnoxious. Two Australian radio hosts Mel Greig and Michael Christian, placed a call to King Edward VII Hospital pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. They faked the British accent and were able to convince Ms. Saldanha to forward their call to another nurse who released medical information about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.
The two radio DJs armed with recordings of their prank, broadcasted it on Australian radio and before long it went around the world. 2DayFM released audio of the “joke” on its Facebook page with the inscription, “Listen to the prank that the world is talking about. Can you believe Mel and MC got away with these dodgy accents?” As worse as their actions may look, it did not stop the prank from being retweeted more than 15,000 times on Twitter. To them it seemed like a PR move, a way of getting attention and one they can easily get away with without ramifications. But unbeknownst their actions would later lead to the suicide of an innocent nurse, who did not know she was being duped.
All these took place at a time when the issue of abuse by the media and invasion of privacy became of high priority to the British government. Just past week, Lord Justice Leveson released a report supported by the British government, in which he reiterated the importance of establishing a monitoring regime to oversee media misconduct. Irrespective of public concern and outcry, analysts believe bad eggs in the media will continue to overstep their boundaries as long as they can do so with impunity.
While what transpired was not intended to cause suicide, many are of the opinion it is morally wrong. The idea that the DJs actions were a prank should be out of the question. Their call to the hospital was indeed a lie from the inception and not only that, they also used falsehood to obtain medical information they were unprivileged to have. Though, royal commentator Robert Jobson said he did not believe the prank was an invasion of privacy, it should be treated as such. The question is why the DJs failed to identify themselves, if their purpose was merely to get news about the Duchess for their audiences? Rather, they impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles and misrepresented their purpose to Ms. Saldanha.
It is yet unclear what drove Ms. Saldanha to commit suicide, but she may have been under pressure. Or else, why would she kill herself over mere transferring a call to an attending nurse? Though, the hospital claimed she was not blamed over the mishap, an intervening force may have triggered her suicide. There is no indication she was contemplating suicide before the events at the hospital, and so far, the Metropolitan Police would not release details of the death, except to say they had received a call about an unconscious woman at Weymouth Street where they found her dead on arrival.
The public deserves to know the truth and it is essential to get to the bottom of it all. Such a suicide is uncommon if not triggered by pressure and threat. What would make a married mother of two kill herself over a phone call she mistakenly transferred remains a misery. The Palace has claimed it did not complain to the hospital about the incident and the hospital, stated it had supported Ms. Saldanha and had not disciplined her since the news broke out so, what motivated her suicide?
The two DJs in question are unlikely to bear any legal responsibility for their roles in this case. Though, their action is disgusting and shameful, it may not be a sound argument for why Ms. Saldanha should commit suicide. It is clear the prank they initiated may have set in motion the events that probably caused the suicide, a mere prank that is not intended to do more, will not suffice for why Ms. Saldanha chose to take her own life. However, if after the news of the call had broken, it was discovered the hospital or her employer had threatened Ms. Saldanha or put pressure on her, then, such evidence would be an intervening force and a catalyst for her suicide. In such a case, the hospital would be partially responsible for her death.
Right now it is an open case. All evidence will emerge as the story continues to unfold and before long, the world will know what caused the royal nurse suicide.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Murder of Diplomacy’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ a fiction. Follow on Twitter @san0670.