Uganda Media Women’s Association and Mama FM recently held an Editors Dialogue between representatives of Disabled People’s Organizations and News Editors from different Media Houses to deliberate on how best to promote disability sensitive reporting. A much needed endeavor as stories inspired by Persons with Disabilities rarely make front page news, and if they do; they come from a biased background of helplessness and victimization which makes it hard to address their problems.
I didn’t get the chance to attend the meeting in person but followed its coverage on the Uganda Media Women’s Association twitter handle, where I read a tweet quoting a journalist from the Daily Monitor saying, “Persons with Disabilities stories always have the same issues. We need variety and different angles to stories.” I was rather appalled to know that someone from the media could have the nerve to make such a blasé remark.
We read about poverty, disease, poor infrastructure on a daily basis without anyone growing tedious of the topics; not even the media houses that continue to fill their pages with these problems nor the journalists that cover them. What makes the stories of Persons with Disabilities any different? Is it the subject? The thorny background of disability or the notion that front page coverage of disability related stories won’t make papers fly off the shelves? How does someone from a Media House expect to have a different angle to a static problem without coverage to bring upon change?
The perception that stories of Persons with Disabilities are of no import since they are static and do not bring huge sales are what brought about the Editors Dialogue. For a representative from a big Media House to sit within the meeting and utter something so callous shows that we still have a long way to go if we want coverage of stories of Persons with Disabilities treated with the impartiality that a Journalist is supposed to uphold.