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.

Dr Mohammud Abdikadir, Source - Nation Media Group

Dr Mohammud Abdikadir, Source – Nation Media Group


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 ( – 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.



  • An insightful article. Not being familiar with the Kenyan health ministry etc, please forgive me for pausing the question: Could it be a case of perhaps opening and setting up channels of press communication that is affiliated to given health institutions or even within the ministry of health itself? There’s a need to isolate party politics from service delivery of civic governance and for that to happen, there has to be willingness to discuss by all concerned.

  • Tabs

    You have a point Grace – its only in the last 5-10 years that health research institutes have started to employ communications officers that help connect the media to researchers. The Ministry of health needs to follow suit – it will not be wise to allow journalists open access to medics however they please, but they do need some access

    • Journalists pursue stories as they arise irrespective. The overall responsibility lies with the ministry of health in Kenya to set up policies of engaging media and her public in how information is disseminated, reported or shared. It would therefore work well were institutions and the health ministry as head, to have media officers who coordinate and collate how and what information is put forward – in a manner that can be contained or controlled if needed. Employees within the sector need to be made aware of these media policies and how to access their internal media officers or refer issues across that arise and need addressing. This would be in their code of professional conduct.