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Pernicious authority and poor administration or just bad journalism?

By Jocelynne Scutt - posted Thursday, 24 January 2013


The 2DayFM radio presenters at the heart of the pregnancy-hoax furore generating columns of press and hours of radio and television time in the last weeks of 2012 have been condemned almost universally for what they clearly believed would be a hoax without consequences beyond its ‘fun’ (as they saw it) origins. The pair ran a gauntlet of press, public and parliamentary criticism, as well as facing interviews by Sydney police, a request to NSW police authorities reportedly having been sent by their United Kingdom counterparts.

Yet in so many respects the tragedy of Jacintha Saldanha’s death, her suicide being a consequence that few, if any, could have anticipated, has (rightly) cast such a pall over the matter that in turn it has obscured what happened on the evening in question.

Certainly the state of mind endured by a human being which leads to their envisioning the ending of their life as the only saving and salvation is, to the living, almost beyond imagining. That someone is brought to such a state of despair as to end her own life is unutterably sad, just as the death of anyone before their time is tragic for those left behind, particularly where loved ones remain with questions compounding their grief. When children – youngsters or teenagers – are left motherless (or fatherless), the tragedy is taken even more beyond bounds. This is so in the case of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who answered the phone, then took her life.

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That this outcome was not on the minds of those involved is confirmed in the initial reaction of one of the individuals impersonated by the radio presenters. Charles Windsor’s response was to enter into the spirit of the hoax (as he clearly interpreted it) or at least to see it as cause for an amused – and perhaps amusing – riposte. Under the heading ‘Charles jokes about prank call’, his words were reported as: ‘How do you know I'm not a radio station?’ ‘Commenting for the first time’ about the prospect of his becoming a grandfather, Charles Windsor said he was ‘thrilled’ at the news of his son and daughter-in-law’s forthcoming child, and (according to the media) ‘poked fun at’ the 2DayFM presenters.

This all poses the question as to whether those at the forefront of the criticism (leading it and adding to it) heard the exchanges making up the call from Sydney radio station to London hospital, or read the transcript. The transcript is readily available, published with medical details omitted:

‘Hospital: Hello. Good morning.

‘Mel Greig, pretending to be the Queen: Oh Hello there, could I please speak to Kate, my granddaughter?

‘Hospital: Oh yes, just hold on a moment

‘Michael Christian: Are they putting us through?

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‘Mel Greig: Yes

‘Christian: [laughs] If this has worked, it's the easiest prank call we've ever made.

Your accent sucked by the way. [laughs]

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About the Author

Dr Jocelynne A. Scutt is a Barrister and Human Rights Lawyer in Mellbourne and Sydney. Her web site is here. She is also chair of Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom and Dignity.

She is also Visiting Fellow, Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Jocelynne Scutt

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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