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Journalists and image of persons with disabilities

Let me use this opportunity to appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of Nigerian journalists seeking to establish an equal and inclusive society of people with…

Let me use this opportunity to appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of Nigerian journalists seeking to establish an equal and inclusive society of people with all abilities through their reportage and programmes.

Journalists and media organizations are tremendously contributing through their microphones and pens to improve the image of persons with disabilities. However, some forget the fact that they are helpful to  persons with disabilities. It is clear that the role of journalists in information dissemination, education and public enlightenment cannot be over emphasized. As the mirror of society, journalists have a great role to play in upgrading the image of persons with disabilities, and changing societal notion against them.

With this, journalists should adopt and apply social responsibility in their reportage and programmes. This could only be done by avoiding discriminatory and offensive words and terminologies against persons with disabilities in their reportage and programmes. Persons with disabilities are human beings like any member in a community or society. They have feelings of happiness and otherwise. I am of the belief and opinion that if journalists and media organizations are able to set an agenda on the people with disabilities, their image will be upgraded and the societal notions against them will be changed within the shortest possible time.

Persons with Disabilities expect objective, balanced and socially responsive media practice. This could allow journalists to be reporting disability related issues with knowledge and professionalism. Journalists should always put the person first before his/her disability in their reportage and programmes.

Journalists should avoid referring them as disabled people, instead, they should be referred to as people with disabilities, or people with special needs. In case of individual disability, the blind should be referred as visually impaired, the deaf should be addressed as hearing impaired, while the cripple should be called physically challenged, etc.

It is the responsibility of journalists to enlighten the public about the Social Model of disability, which argues that it is the society that can make people with special needs functional or not by making adjustments that could take care of their peculiar needs, for example, providing computers with JAWS for the use of visually impaired students and staff in schools and other places of work. The power of the media can help give people with special needs a sense of belonging in society.

Media reportage and programmes free from any form of discrimination, unnecessary sympathy and violation of rights of persons with special needs could lead to establishment of an accessible environment with equal opportunities that could allow persons with special needs participate in education, employment and other important aspects of human life. Media organizations and practitioners could help persons with disabilities improve their self-esteem, self-confidence, self-dignity, communication, leadership, public presentation skills as well as achieving independent living.

In order to achieve this, disability beats should be created in media houses (both public and privately owned). Appropriate programmes for persons with disabilities should be introduced by media organizations and the existing ones should be maintained. Regular workshops and trainings on writing and reporting disabilities should be organized for journalists. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Nigerian Press Council should set guidelines on disability writing, reporting and programming by media organizations.

Salisu Ibrahim is of the News and Current Affairs Dept, FRCN Kaduna National Station

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