Ann Mawathe, who reports features for Citizen TV, trailed a woman in labour until she gave birth to a dead baby.

What was supposed to be a human-interest story on the ongoing strike by nurses has left Citizen TV reporter Ann Mawathe with egg all over her face. Ms Mawathe, her camera person and their driver – in search of what would be an award-wining story – gleefully trailed a pregnant woman who had been turned away from Pumwani Hospital to St Mary’s Hospital in Lang’ata, 10km away, and watched as she finally delivered but lost the baby.

Kenyans have reacted sharply to the story, aired on Citizen prime time news on Friday January 6th, criticizing the reporter and the TV station of being grossly inhuman. In the story, Ms Mawathe and her team followed the woman, who was in labour, as she struggled in vain to get medical help at the state-owned Pumwani Hospital. After she was turned away, the Citizen TV crew pursued her in heavy Nairobi traffic, filming every move as she boarded a matatu at Eastleigh area in her desperate search for a hospital with nurses.

Many TV watchers say the least the Citizen TV crew should have done is be compassionate to offer transport to the nearest hospital or even, in a show of good corporate citizenship, book her at the nearest private hospital such as Guru Nanak, MP Shah, Aga Khan or even Nairobi Hospital.

This has raised debate on where to draw the line between being empathetic with a news subject and media ethics that require journalists not to be involved in the activities being covered. On a humanitarian ground, however, Kenyans feel Citizen TV and its crew failed the pregnant woman and her family, as journalism ethics do not bar journalists from saving lives or averting a disaster. Some journalists, though, are known to instigate a situation to result into a hot story.

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Many believe the Citizen TV story ended the way any reporter would have loved: agony and death that give a story the shocking elements and juicy anecdotes. But does it have to take such avoidable death for the media house or reporter to be heard or to stand out for that matter?

Mediamax example

Here is an excellent example of journalists dumping ethics to save a life. On July 23, 2016, a Mediamax Network van ferrying crew to an assignment at Ewang’an Primary School stopped to help a woman who had just delivered herself of a baby in Kajiado. Deep in the recesses of Maasai plains, Josephine Ndanin lay writhing in pain. The woman had just given birth, with the only assistance at hand being her two daughters.

The girls explained that their mother needed help to get back home, 10 kilometres away, because she was experiencing childbirth pains – the crew offered a helping hand. Ndanin had given birth to a healthy baby girl who was named Mayian, a Maasai word for blessing (and name of Mediamax Maa vernacular FM station).

Outside journalism, in July 2010, Kenya Airways in-flight crew delivered a baby girl on board a flight that had just landed from Muscat, Oman in Nairobi.  A well-trained Kenya Airways in Flight crew delivered the bouncing baby girl. The crew laid the woman in the aisle in economy class while others held up a blanket to create a makeshift delivery room.

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The flight attendants were assisted by a KQ Nurse Juliana Maithya. The captain and first officer waited for the baby to be born before disembarking. A journalist on board would have seen a bigger story to film than the precious life.

These two cases show that professionals can go an extra mile to save a life or bring life to the world. TVs often screen investigative stories where people are mugged, stabbed and even killed in front of their rolling cameras. Footage of fire or accident victims writhing in pain abound, while journalists are happy to roll their cameras instead of offering help.

Man arrested filming accident

In July 2010, a man who pulled out his mobile phone to film a fatal car accident instead of helping the teenagers trapped inside was arrested in Ohio. Paul Pelton, 41, was accused of opening the car’s rear door so he could get better footage of the accident in Lorain, which left one 17-year-old dead and another critically injured.

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He continued to film the burning car while other witnesses scrambled to help them. Police said Mr Pelton mocked the victims in the video and “film[ed] a young man’s dying moments for profit”. They allege that he attempted to sell the macabre footage to at least one news outlet. In the video, Mr Pelton appears to open the burning car’s back door and leans forward to capture what is happening inside. He then moves over to the driver’s side of the car to film one of the boys.

The Citizen pregnant woman story will be a subject for students and scholars in journalism.




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