Role of Press towards disability issues, concerns and expectations

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On World Press Freedom Day

By: M Ahmad

‘World Press Freedom Day’ is an annual celebration of press freedom observed on 3rd May globally. Its main celebration is organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and this year’s theme ‘Information as a Public Good’ emphasizes the service to be made available to all members and sections of the Society. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives while performing their professional duties to serve the Society.

Press is considered as the fourth pillar of democratic society and is actually the spine of any democracy. It really works as a ‘watchdog’ by keeping the masses informed about the day to day happenings around the World. It is of fundamental importance, to me, to understand and comment upon the impact of media in shaping a society, forming its beliefs and changing its behavioral attitudes towards something- anything. Media representations shape the attitudes of wider society.

I am writing as a non-disabled activist engaged with an Institution serving children with various disabilities, with the view that disability studies and research should not just be the interests of disabled people only but should be given a wider sense. There are approximately 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world, or 15 per cent of the global population, and approximately 3.61 lakh persons in J&K. The press has a major role to play in breaking down the stigma surrounding disability. It can be a vital instrument in raising awareness, countering stigma and misinformation and can be a powerful force to change misconceptions and present persons with disabilities as individuals that are a part of human diversity. It is also the responsibility of media to highlight the organizations working for the welfare of disabled community.

By increasing the awareness and understanding of disability issues and the diversity of persons with disabilities and their situations, Press can actively contribute to an effective and successful integration of persons with disabilities in all aspects of societal life and can play an important role in presenting disability issues in a way that could dispel negative stereotypes and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. Furthermore, options should be developed on how to present persons with disabilities in various media and the importance of organizations supporting their survival, education, employment, health and other areas of development.

Public events and other international commemorations could be arranged by the press and media to provide excellent opportunities to raise-awareness and conduct outreach to promote the disability perspective and highlight the concerns of persons with disabilities. Disability-awareness and related sensitivity trainings can also be conducted in organizations in conjunction with such events or be mainstreamed in standard operating procedures but the role of press is to highlight the events for the encouragement of all related stakeholders.

Press is an extremely important part of our everyday life and as an industry it has been critical in the dissemination of information to the mass population. However the influence that it holds over society has not always been used particularly in relation to disability.

Promoting an accurate image and enhancing the voice of persons with disabilities in respect to their achievements and rights and the organizations and Institutions working for them, should be now and then visited to encourage and find facts in relation with the activities for the cause of these people. The achievements of the persons or children with disability should be highlighted in various publications for the encouragement and inspiration of others and in the interest of the society to remain informed.

Currently, there are a number of Institutions and organization in J&K working for the persons with disabilities. The media must seriously consider spending some time in evaluating such institutions and encouraging those who are making great efforts to stand by the ideals of equality- of opportunity and of status.

  • The writer is Principal (I/C), Abhedananda Home, Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Rambagh, Srinagar, J&K. Email: [email protected])

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