Editors pledge to focus on persons with disability issues in Ghana

BY: Graphic Online

The media has pledged to offer opportunities to engage more with persons with disabilities (PWDs) beyond their disability.

The move is aimed at delving into the expertise of PWDs so as to help provide diversity in news production as a way to help overcome the charity model of coverage to a “rights based approach” of reporting PWDs issues.

The focus on issues on PWDs is also to help in accessing government interventions for them.

The pledge was made at a meeting with a select group of editors from southern Ghana, which was aimed at keeping the editors abreast with issues affecting vulnerable groups and help reinforce the need to assign airtime and space in the media for such content.

The meeting was organised by Penplusbytes with support from STAR Ghana.

For two days, February 15th and 16th, 2019, 10 editors from select media houses in Greater Accra, Western, Eastern Central and Volta regions deliberated on how to set the agenda for PWD issues in Ghana and help to make the voices of PWDs added to the governance processes.

It was noted that a significant section of the population in Ghana who are mostly PWDs are excluded from accessing government interventions and benefiting from public goods and services.

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This, was observed as a cross cutting issue in all sectors for such persons.

In addition, it was observed that the media has not adequately provided the platform for the voices of vulnerable and excluded groups to be heard on policy formulation and implementation.

It was also noted that the Persons with Disability Act does not say anything about how the media should relate to PWDs or the nature of reportage on issues of disability in Ghana.

Section 7.5 of the National Media Policy is not explicit in its mandate to the media “to take cognizance of the vulnerability of children and promote the dignity of women as well as persons with disability in various ways”.

Studies also indicate that most media houses do not provide adequate coverage for disability issues and hardly engage PWDs beyond discussing their disabilities as opposed to engaging them to express their opinion on trending national issues.

Speaking at the event, the officer in charge of partnerships and resource mobilisation at the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD), Madam Beatrice Mahmoud made a strong case for why disability issues should make headlines.

She said, “We have been left behind when there is the need to discuss topical issues but we are approached when someone makes a derogatory comment and the media needs our reaction. This shouldn’t be the case.”

Madam Mahmoud added that PWDs are making strides in other fields and these should not be described as “superhuman or beyond ordinary” as PWDs have the ability just as persons with no disability.

She highlighted the need to use right terminologies in addressing persons with disabilities, adding, “if you don’t know how to address a PWD, politely ask the person.”

The Director of Programmes at Penplusbytes, Jerry Sam urged the editors to give space to such pertinent social issues even though most media houses do not see them as having commercial value.

“Penplusbytes through this project seeks to amplify the voices of the vulnerable and we cannot achieve this without the media. You [editors] are the gate keepers and we believe this engagement will be a great start to achieving true impact,” he said.

Under the STAR Ghana funded “Deliver! - Quality media amplifying vulnerable citizens' voices” project, Penplusbytes seeks to contribute significantly to addressing challenges that Persons with Disabilities face with regards to access to health, education and economic opportunities and consequently increase the awareness of issues that negatively impact PWDs and other vulnerable groups.

A key outcome of the meeting was the development of a draft manual to guide media persons in reporting persons with disability issues in Ghana.