Media Council tells journalists to stop saying patients are ‘fighting for their lives’

ICU patient

An ICU. PHOTO| Alamy Stock Photos


You must have heard or read the sentence about victims of one tragedy or another fighting for their lives at some hospital. It is actually one of the clichés in the business of journalism, much like “grisly accident” and  “immediate former”.

The Media Council of Kenya, the body that accredits and regulates journalists in Kenya, was disgusted by the use of “fighting for their lives” in media reports in early June. It says those words are a paradox.

In its June 12 issue of the Observer magazine, the council says:

“Three Kenya Red Cross staff are fighting for their lives in hospital after their vehicle crashed…The three patients in critical conditions at the Nakuru General Hospital…” What exactly does “fighting for their lives” mean? How can patients in critical condition “fight” for their lives?

Here are other highlights of the June newsletter.

1. It shares a list of Kenya’s biggest peddlers of fake news.

Some of the most notorious sites for fake news include Spotonews.Info, ConnectKenyans.com, Boseautoservice.com, Moneytechnews.com, Eazymoneytips.com, Hivisasa.com and kenyacrazymedias.com. Most of these websites metamorphose with time, posting credible news or taking a new identity.

2. It blasts a journalist who asked a dumb question about the Fly SAX plane crash.

And there was that reporter covering a press conference about the tragic plane crash last week who asked asked the Transport PS: “What is the state of the (plane) wreckage?” We call this a very wrecked media attitude towards its audience!

3. It bashes the Standard newspaper for calling Kanze Dena a ‘girl’.

The Coast edition of The Standard on Wednesday 7 bore the splash, “Coast TV girl Uhuru’s new spokesperson”. The story was about the appointment of Kanze Dena as a Deputy Director of the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit.

A national newspaper ought to know that girl is a female child. An adult female person is called a woman.

Well, we admit girl might have other meanings – but in contexts quite different from the journalism of “Kenya’s bold newspaper”. Call girl, for example. Or Simon’s girlfriend (aged 72). Or girl in pillow talk, etcetera.

Kanze is a 39-year-old seasoned journalist whom State House described as having “expansive newsroom leadership experience”.

Few will dispute this. A newspaper must treat her with the dignity she deserves. So, why did The Standard call her a girl? What did the “bold” newspaper intend to communicate to its readers with this petty framing? Is that how they do “bold” journalism on Mombasa Road?

4. It criticises Nation’s language use in reporting about the pilots of a Fly SAX plane.

“The pilot and co-pilot were both women.” (Nation online, Wednesday, June 6.)
What value does “both” add to this sentence?

5. It says Citizen TV’s report on Cuba’s health system was poorly researched.

What was the point of sending a team all the way to Cuba to report about that country’s health system yet some of the people interviewed for the documentary were Health CS Sicily Kariuki and Isiolo Governor Mohammed Kuti? Of course they kept talking about Kenya having the “political will” to transform healthcare to the standard of Cuba.

Citizen TV either did not bother to find out or, for some reason, chose to ignore the revolutionary politics behind Cuba’s celebrated health system. And now that we have some Cuban doctors around, people might imagine the medics’ magic would rub off on us so that by the time they leave we would be on course to building a system like theirs. Not in a million years!

You can access the newsletter by following this link.



Categories: Uncategorized

4 replies »

  1. to fight for one’s life is a phrasal verb and journalists are justified to use it in that manner. I am going to write an opinion condemning the ignorant ‘observers’


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