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The challenges of reporting the story

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Rajan Datar | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

This week's Over To You returns to a theme of one of our recent programmes about the challenges facing journalists when covering stories in dangerous situations.

At the start of 2011 we have a practical demonstration of this in the unfolding Ivory Coast crisis, a subject which attracted comments from a number of listeners. So to get a real sense of the story as it is happening in Ivory Coast, I spoke to the BBC's John James on the phone from Abidjan and discussed the situation on the ground.

He told me about the precarious and potentially dangerous situations that journalists in the country find themselves including the threats that are being made to journalists. I'm was also joined from Paris by Amboise Pierre, the Head of the Africa desk at Reporters Without Borders, who told us more about the way censorship is being used on journalists in Ivory Coast.

Turning to a particularly interesting programme, I was joined in the studio by Peter White, the BBC's disability correspondent, to discuss the making of his new show Blind Man Roams the Globe. Avid World Service listener Joshua, from Kenya, is also visually handicapped, and wrote to us about the inspirational nature of Peter's show. He and Peter discussed the challenges of travelling whilst blind.

Finally there's a chance to get through a few more of your emails, focusing on how the World Service covered this years Christmas festivities. A topic that seems to have stirred up some strong and passionate opinions.

Thanks for all your emails, and please do keep them coming. We always want to hear your feedback.

Rajan Datar is the presenter of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Mr Datar,
    My name is Fyodor Tcheredeyev, I live in Prague, Czech Republic.

    Two bits of information presented by the BBC caught my attention recently, viz. reporting on Czech doctors leaving Czech hospitals.
    To me the coverage of this sad process by the BBC seemed questionable, to say the list.

    The first bit was presented on Radio Cesko which, I understand, used to be the BBC Czech service. The second bit can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12128729.
    The first things that I could not but notice were factual inconsistencies, to say the least, in both materials. The second – the one-sided and pretty subjective coverage.

    Let’s take the facts. In the first bit aired in Czech it was mentioned that the average salary of a poor doctor earned only US$ 900 - «a starting salary at McDonald’s». The version available on the BBC web delicately alters it to a «waiter’s salary». Oh dear me, so that’s where the big money is! Why have I wasted all the time learning and training, I should have gone straight to McDonald’s.

    I did not, instead I have become a language specialist, and teaching is one of the things I do for a living. Let’s do some calculations here. The good doctor from the BBC article was making about US$ 900 while studying at university, he was teaching English “to pay his way through university”. That’s about 17600 CZK. If you get 500 CZK for a lesson as a teacher – you are VERY lucky. Lots of teachers working for language schools have about half of the sum. Same is true for state schools. Been there, done that. This tells us that the good doctor had about 35 lessons per month, 8-9 lessons a week! And that if he was extremely lucky and got 500 CZK per lesson (which I have reasons to doubt – a native speaker, maybe, but a medical student...) So, if that was not the case and he got some 300 CZK (not bad at all, actually) he should have had more or less about 60 lessons per month, 15 lessons a week! With all the preparations and commuting, I cannot but admire his ability to squeeze some medical studies in his teaching.

    Talking about average salaries does remind of the “average temperature in a hospital ward”, does it not? What is an average salary? Salaries have an unfortunate tendency to differ from the capital to a small town. Take the average salary in Prague, and you get all the salaries of CEOs, Directors, Managers and what not of all the multinational corporations, banking institutions, hi-tech companies and so forth. Then there is a wonderful Czech contraption called “super-pre-tax” salary (superhruba mzda in Czech). To get this lovely thing you take the pre-tax salary and add 26% of the pre-tax salary (social insurance) and 9% of the pre-tax salary (medical insurance). I am not an accountant and the exact figures tend to change every year, but it gives you an idea. Now compare the super-pre-tax salary of a Microsoft manager in Prague with a post-tax one of a nurse in a far-off village, and what do you get?

    By the way, if the doctors are so peculiar about money, why don’t they return the money the state has invested in their education? I hate to count other people’s money, but the doctor’s initiative is most likely to result in me – the end-of-the-food-chain taxpayer paying more, and this is something that might rather worry me.

    Of course the doctors make just one half of the problem. The inefficiency, to say the least, of politicians, the lack of interest to solve, or even to see the problem on the part of the (several, I believe) governments also plays its important role. I cannot but laugh at the majority of Czech politicians, really. The Health Minister, when asked about smoking in pubs, says he doesn’t mind if someone smokes next to him, the Education Minister recommends the potential students should get a couple of years teaching experience at schools BEFORE entering a pedagogical university – just two of my favourite examples of modern Czech “political thinking”.

    The article paints a picture of poor doctors suffering in their tiny surgeries in the centre of Europe. What about rich teachers? What about rich social workers, policemen, firemen? What the article fails to describe is the dramatically wrong system – and, oh please correct me if I am wrong – in the whole Western world. Anything for money. Ethics? Morale? Social values? Give me a break! I failed to notice a desire on the poor doctors’ part to raise at least one comprehensive problem of the modern Czech society. Not a single one. It has become a de facto crime to be of old age in the Czech Republic. How many old people – who made it possible for modern 30 year olds to get their education, among other things – cannot afford to pay the rent for a place where they’ve lived all their lives? The integration of people of other nationalities is becoming a problem. Have we forgotten the sterilization of Roma women? Of ill children in cages, in hospitals, by the way?
    Come on! Is blackmail a way out? At least the doctors are trying to be fair. «We want money» say they in the BBC article. Does anyone happen to remember what the Hippocratic Oath is about?

    I know firsthand that an average social worker gets about 12000 CZK (US$ 625, GBP 403, EUR 482) per month pre-tax. And, believe it or not, they also have to pay rent, buy food, and “entertain” their families. I must admit I have not heard of a “thank you, we’re leaving” movement amongst them. With this in mind, I can only ask BBC to be more objective in what you publish, and to aim at a deeper analysis of what’s going on in this world.

    P.S. There is one point which has to be made for the doctor who was speaking on the Czech radio and whose name I failed to remember. He did say, and in English too, while addressing his patients: «We are leaving for you». Thank you very much, Mr Doctor, I feel a lot safer now that the «we want money» people go away.

    P.P.S. The article was reprinted by Lidove Noviny [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    I’ve taken the liberty of translating some of the comments:

    Obviously BBC didn’t do their homework:
    Please show me a waiter who makes those 50000 CZK. Statistically they have about 13000 CZK.

    Doctor Papp may not be a very good doctor if that is how much he makes. If he goes abroad he might be just good enough for Czechs. – The problem of Czech healthcare system is the fact that doctors are not paid for their quality. Oftentimes a bad doctor is better paid than a good one.


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