Project Enable Africa in collaboration with the United States Consulate, Lagos organised a disability-inclusive reporting training for media organisations and media practitioners with a call on them to increase disability inclusive content in their reportage.
The event, held on the 24th of November via ZOOM had editors and journalists from notable Television, radio, newspaper and online media houses in attendance.
The media plays a vital role in shaping the culture of any society, just as it mirrors society in its entirety. In line with that, disability inclusion advocates have called for increased reporting of disability issues in the mainstream media.
Speaking at the webinar, Mr Stephen Ibelli, Public Affairs Officer, the United States Consulate, Lagos, pointed out that the society is defined mainly by how it treats its poorest populace and those in need of help.
According to him, “Disability right is an important part of Human right and the United States Government is committed to promoting disability rights.”
He dwelt on the need for accessibility to public facilities as an integral part of promoting inclusion.
He further stated that “The Nigerian Disability Act is a great base to build on, however, there is so much work to be done, towards having an inclusive society.”
David Anyeale, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens With Disabilities highlighted the need for accurate reporting of disability issues in the media.
He mentioned that over the years, wrong words which tend to increase discrimination and stereotypes have flooded the media spaces. He urged reporters to be mindful of the usage of words when reporting.
According to him, “it is better to refer to us as Persons With Disabilities, or physically challenged as opposed to saying crippled.”
Anyeale also drew the attention of the media organisations to the Nigerian Disability Act and the need for implementation.
Miss Folashade Salimonu, Programs Manager, Lagos Television clamoured on the need for continuous education for reporters so they can rightly report disability issues in the mainstream media. According to her media organisations needs to see the need for sign language interpreters for major TV news and programs.
Mrs Angela Emuwa, Chairman board of Punch Nigeria Limited, duly represented by Mrs Adesola Ayo-Aderele, an assistant Editor, Punch Nigeria, urged NGOs such as Project Enable Africa to consider the training of journalist on disability reporting a continuous exercise that will birth a change in reportage across the mainstream media.
According to her, “you must be persistent with the media, because through persistence, the media would be able to shape how people see persons with disabilities. Also be conscious of the way advocacy are made on disability issues. The media must always approach and portray persons with disabilities with dignity”
Mr Bolaji Adepegba, a development communication expert, elaborated on the need for the right thinking and mindset which will help to engage with Persons With Disability with dignity. He added that drawing the attention of policymakers to issues on disability inclusion is key for development.
Giving his closing remarks, Olusola Owonikoko, the Executive Director of Project Enable Africa said “the ultimate goal the project is to build the capacity of media organisations across Nigeria in disability-inclusive reporting. Ultimately, we will create a Media for Disability-inclusive Reporting Network (DIREN), comprising of traditional, print and new media practitioners who will champion disability mainstreaming in the media sector.”
He added that “DIREN will be instrumental to influencing a positive behavioural change towards the community of persons with disabilities in Nigeria.