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.
Categories: Current Affair, Hospitality, Humanitarian
You are quite right to condemn the ludicrously irresponsible actions of Mel Greig and Michael Christian. Commanding an audience carries moral obligations that these two radio hosts despised. All broadcasters and journalists, worldwide, should be trained to reflect on the consequences of their actions
Jacintha Saldanha should not have needed to die for the radio hosts to have cause to reflect critically on their stupidity. I heard their prank call when it was broadcast on Radio 4 in the UK; another highly questionable decision. It did not make me laugh. Actually I cringed and, even then, straight away, felt awful for the staff at King Edward VII Hospital.
It is obvious that this would be a massive strain on those taken in by the prank. They suddenly found themselves in the middle of an international media storm that naturally portrayed them as naive and foolish. Hearing your mistake splashed over the media for millions of people worldwide to learn about is bound to have a terrible impact on your mental health, whoever you are.
If she did commit suicide, her death is partly the responsibility of the hospital authorities who have already admitted that telephone protocols needed to be reviewed. But it is mostly the responsibility of two idiotic narcissists who were happy to rampage thoughtlessly over the fragile wellbeing of innocent hospital staff.
Thank you very much for taking the time. I can see you’re concern just like every reasonable person familiar with the case should. No doubt the actions of those two radio hosts represent one of the most outrageous behaviors in media history. It shows the abuse of the free speech we all cherish and demonstrates how far some can go to seek fame and attract audience.
Can’t agree with you more that Jacintha may have suffered from the sudden worldwide attention on her and her family. She is from a part of the world where respect and honor matters, to be the subject of such a mistake which in fact, was due to a prank may have weigh heavily on her. We can all speculate but she may have acted to protect herself and her family from the shame and embarrassment, she thought might follow her brief role in the unfortunate incident.
However, the way she ended her life is so unforeseeable and highly remote that those two radio hosts are likely to escape legal ramifications. At most they would forfeit their employment and suffer from public outrage. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to believe something happened ‘after the fact’ that triggered her decision to commit suicide. Hope is that her employer and working environment play no role in her way to suicide.
Thank you for your reply. I am grateful.
This morning, I heard in the newspaper review on UK’s Radio 4 that one writer is suggesting that Mel Creig is at risk of harming herself. This has made me stop and reconsider my position.
I stand by everything I wrote in my previous comment. However, I realise I need to add another point concerning the welfare of the radio hosts.
In my comment I referred to the fragility of the nursing staff at the hospital. This is not because I consider the staff at King Edward VII Hospital to be particularly fragile or that nurses are significantly more fragile than the rest of us. I simply recognise the fragility of the human condition in general. Everyone who walks this earth, regardless of upbringing or even, say, military training, possesses an innate fragility that comes with being composed of the flesh, bone, beating heart and delicately balanced mind common to us all.
The same is therefore true for Mel Creig and Michael Christian. I am extremely angry about their behaviour. I repudiate not one word of my previous condemnation. They deserve whatever disciplinary action may be coming their way. However, they are also precious human beings who are probably now, like Nurse Saldanha, regretting their mistake. They need support, too. This whole terrible tragedy must be prevented from deteriorating further.
This is not a time for colleagues, friends or family of the radio hosts to desert them as some sort of punishment. They must learn their lesson, but further personal tragedy is not an outcome to benefit anyone.
You’re indeed right, they must be going through extreme pressure as well. In my previous response I indicated that Jacintha’s suicide was so unforeseeable and remote because in actuality, the two radio hosts, had no intention to cause her to commit suicide. Legally speaking, they are not responsible for her death though, they set in motion the events that led to it. However, they engaged in morally despicable act.
As human beings we’re all fragile depending on life situations and there is no doubt there is a limit to how much pressure we can withstand. Likewise, there should be a limit to how people critique the two DJs or else, the story might have unexpected end. Nonetheless, the society cannot condone what the DJs have done or else, how do we correct a misconduct especially one that triggered a suicide?
I believe a reasonable and moderate public outrage should serve as a lesson for their roles in the events that led to the suicide. Not because they caused it but because they were wrong in the way they conducted themselves. They lied, impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles and misrepresented their purpose. There are kids in Australia who see them as role models, those kids deserve to know what they have done wrong and how the world responded. However, it does not mean they are bad people or that they deserve to live in pain for the rest of their lives.
Indeed, I have no interest in minimising the outcry against the radio hosts’ appalling act. I absolutely stand by every word of my original criticism.
However, my original comment did need that qualification. It is so difficult, yet crucial, to find the right balance in such a response.
I believe we now have. Thank you Dr. Oshunrinade for your inciteful post and for entertaining this dialogue. I will no doubt be reading more of your posts in the future.
I wish you every kindness.