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Exposé on KNH did not treat Kenya’s premier hospital fairly

The media bears a huge responsibility in society. It provides the information needed by the state and people to make responsible and informed decisions. Given the watchdog function, the media serves as the eyes and ears of society by exposing both the good and evil in the private and public domains, providing the public with relevant information about the world they live in, and a clear understanding of their rights, putting them at a better place to make informed decisions. To accurately mirror the diverse perspectives of society, media should strive to uphold impartiality and neutrality, objectivity, and the dissemination of information devoid of bias.

The Daily Nation, on January 30, 2024, published a story on pages 4-5 that expressed strong criticism and condemnation of corruption and unethical behaviour within public service. It described a situation where corruption and mistreatment were pervasive, using vivid language such as “rot”, “humiliation”, “putrid fumes of graft”, and “deliberate creation of chaos”. The reference to a “criminal enterprise” implied an organised and systemic problem, suggesting that corruption had been allowed to flourish, leading to the exploitation and dehumanisation of vulnerable Kenyans.

The story portrayed an unattractive picture of the state of certain public service sectors with a specific focus on Kenyatta National Hospital, East Africa’s biggest referral hospital. These accusations posed a negative impact on the facility’s reliability, reputation, and dependability as it was portrayed by the media in, well, bad light. As such, there ought to have been a varying range of experts/contributors and stakeholders from the hospital’s side to offer insights into the different accusations raised against them.

However, only one KNH employee and official were interviewed, raising the question of the story’s credibility. Considering medicine is a broad profession, it is highly improbable that the two contributors mentioned in the story as having given a reply on the side of KNH were adequately knowledgeable on all the accusations levelled at the hospital. Their insights and contributions only served in their area of specialty alone and should not have been used to generalise and be purported to answer all other accusations. This offered vague answers to the alleged complaints contrary to the precision and accuracy expected in responsible and ethical journalism. With such serious accusations, it is advisable to have multiple credible references.

When handling a story on serious and potentially damaging issues, journalists must adhere to ethical principles, emphasising accuracy, fairness, and balance. Investigative stories require journalists to seek multiple perspectives from various stakeholders and experts to provide a comprehensive understanding, avoid sensationalism by using neutral language, provide context by including historical background and relevant policies, ensure fairness by allowing accused parties an opportunity to respond, maintain objectivity to present facts without personal bias, and consider ethical implications such as minimising harm. These practices contribute to responsible and informed journalism while reducing the risk of misinformation and potential harm.

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