Demotion for talking to the media
Isiolo Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Mohammud Abdikadir was demoted by the county government for talking to the press about the facility.
Dr Mohammud is one of a kind – who despite being demoted still went ahead and spoke to the media again.
Although we make a lot of noise about freedom of the media – in Kenya we only think about political journalists. Health journalism is not taken seriously – in fact when you look at my favourite daily’s website (http://www.nation.co.ke) – health is right at the bottom, after politics, sports, anything and everything …. at the end, come health articles.
There is a dearth of health writers in this country and no wonder. You cannot just quote a politician and say what he said yesterday and what another idiot reported and get published. You need to read around a topic and talk to plenty of people before you get a health article worth submitting.
Talking to people in the health sector is one of the reasons journalists are so sick of health writing.
The health sector loathes the media……
Doctors will not talk to you unless you have a letter signed by the MO in charge of a facility who will sometimes refuse to give it to you and insist that they need permission from the PS in Nairobi.
As a freelancer, I have endured long waits and trooped from office to office to finally get the letter than will allow a doctor or nurse to talk to me.
If you are working on a deadline you don’t have this time. In the end, many journalists are forced to write what they have heard and the medical fraternity is then up in arms saying things are not like that. However, they refused to talk to the journalist and the only way a journalist would get a response from them was really to force them out in the open with a statement they would need to defend.
Writing health articles with a health sector that fears and hates the media makes it extremely difficult for many people to write accurate pieces.
The health sector does some really good jobs and I have written about them in the past – but all those waits for permission make it extremely difficult to cover them.
Health workers and researchers all have one belief – journalists will misquote them. If they are misquoted, then they will be dismissed. However, how will the health sector improve if it does not allow any criticism.
Political journalism has made great strides since the days of President Moi when you could barely say a negative thing about him. I still remember the first time a cartoon was drawn of a bare-chested President Moi in boxing gloves – we could not believe anyone would do that. People can bombard President Uhuru with questions he has to answer. Journalists write plenty of unsavoury things about the President and get away with it (a lot more during Kibaki’s era than now though) ……
But the health sector is burdened with the same rules about how to relate to the media that where there during Moi’s days – nothing has changed there….a doctor is demoted for talking to a journalist – in February 2016!
Health writing deserves respect and health workers should not be victimised for talking to mere mortals like me, called journalists.