A significant section of the population in Ghana who are mostly Persons with Disabilities are excluded from accessing government interventions and benefiting from public goods and services. This is a cross cutting issue in all sectors for such persons. The media has not adequately provided the platform for the voices of vulnerable and excluded group heard on policy formulation and implementation.
The Persons with Disability Act does not say anything about how the media should relate to the 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. It is also a well-known fact that the that majority of the media personnel are stuck in the ‘Charity Model’ of reporting since they would present PWDs as people who need assistance. This offers both an opportunity as well as a challenge. An opportunity to engage PWDs beyond their disability and delve into their expertise thereby providing diversity in news production and a challenge on how to overcome the charity model of coverage to a “rights based approach” of reporting PWD issues.
For this reason, Penplusbytes with support from STAR Ghana convened ten (10) news editors from leading media houses across the southern sector of the country (Greater Accra, Western, Eastern Central and Volta regions) from 15th to 16th February to deliberate on how to set the agenda for Persons with disabilities issues in Ghana and have PWDs voices added to the governance processes while ensuring no one is left behind.
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 further highlighted the need for the use of the right terminologies in addressing persons with disabilities, adding, “if you don’t know how to address a PWD, politely ask the person.”
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.
The meeting aimed to keep the editors abreast with issues affecting vulnerable groups and help to reinforce the need to assign airtime and space in their various media for such content. It was also a means to ensure that alumni from Penplusbytes’ previous trainings under this same project are given the necessary support in their newsrooms to undertake in-depth and investigative pieces on the area to inform and educate stakeholders including policy makers.
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.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources