Liberia: Promote Accurate Images, Enhance Voices of PWD

PAL President urges media editors

Liberia: The President of the Publishers Association of Liberia or PAL, the umbrella organization for print media institutions in Liberia, Mr. Othello B. Garblah has urged his colleagues to promote accurate images and enhance the voices of people with disabilities.

He said the media is best seated to play a critical role in providing education and creating awareness that emphasizes the rights of people with disabilities and their needs to form part of the productive sector of society.

"In order to achieve this, editorial leaders should begin to promote accurate images and enhance the voices of persons with disabilities in the media", he says.

The PAL President, who is also Managing Editor of the New Dawn Newspaper made the call in Monrovia during a roundtable on people with disabilities organized under the auspices of Internews Liberia in commemoration of International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities.

Serving as one of the panelists, he shares his thought on the topic: Editorial Leadership beyond Peripheral Reporting on PWD issues, prospects, and challenges.

According to him, editorial leadership in the newsroom can also be exercised, based on the kinds of images and stories that are published in the media, noting images of stories published or broadcast can influence public opinion and establish societal norms.

Mr. Garblah continues that the media can be an important instrument in raising awareness, countering stigma and misinformation, adding that it can be a powerful force to change societal misconceptions and present persons with disabilities as individuals that are a part of human diversity.

The media, he explains, can do so by increasing the awareness and understanding of disability issues and the diversity of persons with disabilities and their situations by actively contributing to the effective and successful integration of persons with disabilities in all aspects of societal life.

He says the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires states to raise awareness and combat stereotypes related to persons with disabilities, including by encouraging all media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with respect for human rights.

"As part of achieving its goal on upholding the dignity of persons with disabilities, the UN indicates that the media can help in changing perceptions around disabilities."

Meanwhile, the PAL President points challenges facing the media in creating awareness and promoting the rights of PWD includes lack of training in this regard, saying "Therefore, in order to surmount this challenge, I would suggest that special training be organized for practitioners on how to report on disability-taking into consideration terminologies that would be used to dignify them. For example, instead of saying the person is crippled, say physically challenged. Instead of saying the person is blind, - visually impaired."

Earlier, the Chief of Party at Internews, Ms. Lien Bach said the media and society roundtable with people with disabilities was intended to bring both the media, civil society including people with disabilities together and find solutions to the many challenges the PWD face as well as for the media to understand its role, challenges, and prospect.

"We at Internews our mission is to support local media, and its partners to report on issues affecting people with disabilities", she says and adds "For us, we are there to provide you guys with the necessary support to enhance your work to report accurate, balanced stories and happenings in communities. We are hoping to maximize the impact of the story that you will publish, thereby raising awareness especially on the various topics that our panelist will be speaking on."

Also giving an overview of the roundtable, Jefferson Massah, senior advisor at Internews narrates that the observance of the international day of persons with disabilities is being celebrated in a few countries across Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, and Cote d' Ivoire, saying "We all know the United Nations recognizes this day as the day to celebrate persons with disabilities globally."

Massah continues that Internews being a media development organization is using the media to amplify the voices of people with disabilities, noting that they've been working since last year through inclusive media platforms to increase not the quantity, but the quality of media reporting on people with disabilities in Liberia.

He discloses it was against this backdrop that Internews has decided to work with twenty selected media personnel from across the country, including civil society organizations to organize community media forums through providing them small grants and independent media organizations.

"As the result of this, we have over sixty stories that have been produced by those journalists, so in the next five years we can have a strong foundation of a team of journalists that will be able to report and amplify issues relating to people with disabilities."

The celebration which was held under the theme; Amplifying the Voices of People With Disabilities to inclusion and participation brought together scores of media practitioners from both print and electronic media institutions including CSOs and people with disabilities, among others.

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