Key to Combating Prejudice,
or How to cover the lives of people with disabilities in media
The UNICEF country office in Uzbekistan has organized a roundtable discussion in Tashkent devoted to raising the level of ethical media coverage of issues related to disabilities, especially with regard to impaired children.
Journalists, managers and bloggers of media organizations and NGOs took part in the event, which provided with a lively and informal atmosphere. Media representatives had a great opportunity to communicate closely with specialists in this field, for example, with psychologists and chiefs of various organizations.
For example, the head of UNICEF country office in Uzbekistan, Sascha Graumann, in an interview with our correspondent stressed that the media play a decisive role in shaping the right attitude towards persons with disabilities, as well as in countering negative stereotypes manifested in this field.
In some publications, Graumann pointed out, one sometimes observes demonstration of pity for people with disabilities, and that is completely unacceptable. These children primarily have rights, the same as those of their healthy peers. And it is important for journalists to focus readers’ attention not on what they lack, but on their abilities and achievements, UNESCO official stressed.
At the event, official statistics cited suggested that about 85 thousand children are registered in Uzbekistan with disabilities under the age of 16. Of these, 14,600 live in specialized boarding schools for kids with mental and physical disabilities, away from their families.
Speeches of persons with disabilities and their parents were rather engaging. For example, Shahnoza Ikramova, whose son Rustam is diagnosed with Down syndrome, stressed that her child for her is grace, not punishment. And she said that some of her neighbors frightened their children by saying that ‘if they do not obey their parents, they will be given to... Rustam’…
Also quite interesting was the presentation of the UN Program Coordinator for people with disabilities Yana Chicherina, who conducted a workshop on covering these issues. She, in particular, has led five ‘nevers’ that cannot be used in media publications. Thus, do not apply disability as the main characteristic or difference of a person, do not use epithets that cause pity, fastidiousness or fear, do not make disability cause human problems, do not admire what many people do without disability, even if it is done in an unusual way. In addition, she led five ‘always’, and one of them is try to find hope, joy or humor.
I think that these councils will be useful not only to media representatives, but also to other citizens in dealing with people with disabilities.
... I left this event with a sincere feeling that I know very little about the rules for covering issues pertaining to people with disabilities, and that writing on this topic is a big responsibility.