By Lewis S. Teh
The National Union Organization of people with disabilities in Liberia appeals to media executives and the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia to establish special news desks in their various institutions to highlight the plights of people with disabilities across the country.
The first Vice President of NUO, Peter Flomo made the call over the weekend at a Media and Society Roundtable on people with disabilities organized under the auspices of Internews Liberia in commemoration of International Day of Persons with disabilities held at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship in Sinkor, Monrovia.
Speaking on the topic: “Media, PWD, CSOs Partnership: Prospects and Challenges” Mr. Flomo said persons with disabilities to some level are overcoming barriers brought on them, but there are gaps, which the media and CSOs should partner to addressing, including building capacity of sign language interpreters.
He said PUL, reporters, and members of the Publisher Association of Liberia should adapt a disability manual that will enable persons with disabilities to feel included in media programs.
Specifically, he said the PUL should make available a slot for PWD during elections to execute their duties in the country, adding that PWD lacks access to public health facilities something he termed total discrimination.
The President of the Press Union of Liberia Charles Coffey said, it is unfortunate that some people would mal-handle persons with disabilities, saying “we should all be aware that no one is exempt from disability until death because anyone could become disabled from accident or illness.
Mr. Coffey wants the media to prioritize issues confronting people with disabilities because they didn’t crave to be in said condition, adding that disability comes thru national causes or accidents.
He noted they are unique in society, but the media has not been lifting their plight and contribution due to lack of leadership in the Union to enhance their work.
“I think it is important that we highlight PWD stories because when they are highlighted, they will always be free and wouldn’t have any problem of being disabled.”
The PUL boss called on Legislative reporters to flag issues that surround the welfare of PWD especially, how much is allotted in the national budget and who are those charged to manage it because a good number of people with disabilities are in the street.
At the same time, he said the PUL will officially introduce an award for a journalist that will highlight and report on disability issues, saying “I think this can be a great contribution, we all need to handle the disabled situations as emergency matter because there is no form of disability and every human being has some forms of disability. We should not consider PWD as less important in the society, let them be considered as important people like ourselves, and it’s only the media that can do this.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Reporters Association of Liberia or RAL Cecelia Clarke has stressed a need for journalists to amplify voices of PWD, adding there was a need to change the narrative of PWD.
“PWD has great intelligence that can capacitate them to contribute to society, it is time that we treat them with respect and dignity, because they have the ability to become great citizens if only they are given the opportunity to excel in society”, Ms. Clarke said.
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 challenges PWD face, and for the media to understand its role, challenges, and prospects.
“We at Internews our mission is to support local media, and its partners to report on issues affecting people with disabilities; 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 stories that you will publish, thereby raising awareness especially on the various topics that our panelists will be speaking on.”
The celebration, held under the theme: Amplifying the Voices of People With Disabilities brought together media practitioners from both print and electronic institutions including CSOs, and people with disabilities, among others. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/liberia-promote-accurate-images-enhance-voices-of-pwd/Editing by Jonathan Browne