…..As Internews hosts one day Media and Society Roundtable

By: Leila B. Gbati

In an effort to amplify the voices of people with disabilities (PWDs) across Liberia media Practitioners have been called upon to prioritize issues of PWDs in their various media outlets.

The called was made over the weekend at a one day Media and Society Roundtable of PWD organized by Inter-news Liberia in commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disability under the local theme: “Amplifying the voice of PWD to Include and participate”.

The roundtable discussion, which brought together journalists including editors, publishers, reporters, President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), President of the Reporter Association of Liberia (RAL), President of the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), First Vice President of the National Union of Organization of PWD in Liberia and CSOs from the disable community, was held at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Center on 9th Street Sinkor.

In a special remark, the Inter-news Country Director, Lien Bach, said that the roundtable discussion was timely because it is a very important intended to amplify the voices of PWDs across Liberia.

According to her, their mission is to support local journalists and media partners to publish accurate, balance and credible stories about PWDs in their various media outlets in order to maximize the impact on PWDs and create awareness on topics of PWDs issues.

Madam Bach appreciated media Practitioners for making themselves available for the roundtable discussion, emphasizing that they hope that the media can boast the quality and quantity of topic on PWDs in Liberia.

“I really wish all of you today to have a very good discussion about PWDs Community,” she said.

Also giving the overview of the Media Roundtable, the Inter-news Chief of Party, Jefferson Massah indicated that the United Nations recognized December 3, 2021 as International day to celebrate PWDs globally and Inter-news being a media development organization that is working towards amplifying the voices of PWDs by using the media as a means to enhance that, they have been working since a year ago under it’s Inclusive Media Project.

Mr. Massah said that the project is intended to increase the quality and quantity of media reporting on PWDs in Liberia and as part of that they have been able to work with 20 journalist fellows selected from across the Country over the last 6 months and beyond that they are also working with media staff and CSOs from the disable community including the Disability Association in Bong and Babpolu counties and the United Blind Association and others groups.

The Internews Chief of Party further said that they have worked with all of these groups to organize community media forum while working with individual journalist who have been increasing media reporting while helping them to increase media literacy when it comes to reporting on PWDs issues over the last 5 months.

Mr. Massah told the gathering that as a result of their work under the Inclusive Media Project they have over 60 stories that have been produced by these journalists and in the next 5-6 years to come they will have a very strong foundation team of journalists across Liberia that will continue to report and amplify issues pertaining to PWDs.

“So as we observe this day today is also good to redouble our conversation around the issues of putting PWDs in the middle of our media reporting so not only those in policy making, we will continue to highlight not only those in the decision making effort especially when it comes to disability issues,” he urged media Practitioners.

He emphasized that the way the media and most people in Liberia have portrayed PWDs is from the point of pity and they have not been able to capture meaningful contributions being made by PWDs across the different organizations and in society.

He maintained that more often when journalists are reporting on PWDs always put pity first rather than seeing or recognizing those remarkable things that PWDs are doing that even a normal person are not doing.

He therefore admonished journalists to highlight the meaningful and remarkable contributions that PWDs are doing in society and not just as passive recipients of humanitarian assistance so they can now feel included. He said like the global theme of this year’s celebration talks about inclusion and participation, they also tried to recognize it under their own local theme: “amplifying the voices of PWDs to include and participate”.

Meanwhile, he said the media roundtable is surrounded by four topics which include Providing media leadership to enhance inclusion for PWDs in the Liberia Media, Reporting to amplify and increase plurality in voices of PWDs, Editorial leadership beyond peripheral reporting on PWDs Issues: prospects and challenges and Media and PWD CSOs partnership: Prospects and challenges.

Presenting on the topic Editorial leadership beyond peripheral reporting on PWD issues: prospects and challenges, the President of the PAL, Othello Garblah delved into the state of disabilities while speaking on myth and stereotype that discriminated and conditions that have denied them employment which should be focused and worked on.

The New Dawn publisher then noted that the media stands in the position to provide education and awareness to bring to public limelight the plight of the PWDs and suggested that special training should be given reporters covering disability issues to appropriately report issues concerning the PWDs.

“We should promote and make them competitive that is our role. Lets provide education and awareness by promoting and telling policy maker issues that will or will not benefit the PWDs community. Editorial should be able to promote PWDs issues,” he encouraged media Practitioners.

For his part, Peter Flomo from the National Union of Organization of PWDs presenting on the topic Media and PWDs CSOs partnership he stressed that there should be given a slot in every media institutions to highlight the voices of PWDs.

On the other hand, the President of the PUL, Mr. Charles Coffey has committed the PUL to introduce an award for the best reporter of issues involving people with Disabilities. He said the award would drive the media to giving voice to the PWDs in the society.

Coffey indicated that disability is not a situation intended for specific groups of people, but is rather inherent in the lives of people of the world, especially in the advent advancing technology where anyone could face the situation of disability at any time.

The President of the RAL, Madam Cecelia Clarke also presenting on the topic “reporting to amplify and increase plurality in voices of PWDs called on her fellow reporters to used their respective media to amplify concerns often raised by PWDs especially issues that border on health, education and job creation.

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