x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A matter of respect

The tragic death of the UK nurse duped by pranksters prying for medical details of the Duchess of Cambridge is a reminder of just how thoughtless some can be.

Just a few days ago, people in various parts of the world were amused, bemused or slightly outraged by a hoax call from Australian radio announcers Mel Greig and Michael Christian to the hospital caring for Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, who was suffering severe morning sickness. The story, and audio of the DJs' amateurish impersonations of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, received global media and internet attention.

On Friday, what had been a light distraction took a very dark turn when the nurse who answered the phone, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead. The BBC said that Ms Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, had felt "very lonely and confused" after the prank.

Even though the radio station, 2DayFM, has previously been under fire for its stunts - including attaching a teenager to a lie detector and asking her personal questions - nobody could have expected this outcome. The station, while contrite, insists it has done nothing illegal.

As is proper, Australia's media regulator is investigating. Meanwhile, all media professionals, and people using social networks, should remind themselves that they have a duty of care. The person on the other end of the line is a human being who deserves respect and compassion.