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Millennium Post

A prank that turned pungent

The death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha of London’s prestigious King Edward VII Hospital after she answered a prank call from an Australian radio station about the health of Kate Middleton who is pregnant, is indeed tragic and completely uncalled for. In the absence of a receptionist during her early morning duty at the hospital, Saldanha took the call from Sydney station 2Day FM. The prank call was made by two show hosts from Australia pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Saldanha, the Indian-born mother-of-two, had put the call through to a colleague, who gave the eager pranksters details about the recovery of Prince William’s pregnant wife Kate’s recovery from morning sickness.

While it was scoop for the radio station who went ballistic about its ‘breakthrough’ prank, the nurse was found dead, presumably after having  committing suicide, next day. The police are investigating the case but it looks like Saldanha, a loving wife, mother and caregiver at the hospital could not take the pressure of public scrutiny of her name that was surely going to be embroiled in what looked like another salacious piece of news about the-never-to-be-left-alone British royal family.  

Their apparently innocent prank having severely and tragically backfired, the radio station has gone on the defensive, profusely apologising for the mishap, cancelling shows and banning prank calls for all its programmes. But realising that it needs to do more, the radio is setting up a fund with its annual profit, worth no less that Aus$500,000 in the name of Saldanha and her family.

This will no doubt soothe public nerves but the outcry is reaching proportions that the radio station might find difficult to control.  There has been serious public backlash both in the UK and Australia and there is a serious demand that the extent and reach of the media in violating private life and privacy in the name of unearthing scoops and scandals must be put to an end.

Saldanha is one of the millions of hardworking women who have nothing to do with the quicksilver, slippery, gossipy world of glamour and scandals. Her tragic and unfortunate end brings into focus the very danger of a celebrity-obsessed world in which no boundary is deemed as sacrosanct and in which the life and work of even innocent civilians could come under fire for wanton profits and quick recognition. The concerned agencies, governments and media houses might do well to stop and think if impromptu news-making and fake scandalising is what the media is ultimately for.

Saldanha’s death should be a wake-up call.
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