“The mass media should show people with disabilities in a positive light”
It was with these words that Sergei Mironov, president of the Council of the Russian Federation, opened a round table on ‘Social responsibility in the mass media; disabilities ways and means’.
He said that there were around 13 million people with disabilities in Russia, the majority of whom were experiencing social exclusion. Mr Mironov noted that as a rule people with disabilities were regarded as objects of pity and charity. He proposed that representatives of the mass media and NGOs should enter into a formal agreement to create a positive image of those with disabilities and avoid encroaching on their dignity. The chair of the National Society for People with Disabilities (NSPD) and Duma (parliament) member, Alexander Lomakin-Rumantsyev, similarly proposed that a national policy should be developed with regard to the coverage of social problems. He said that in 1999 the NSPD held a competition ‘Surmounting the Challenges‘ for the best piece of journalism on the problems experienced by people with disabilities. From 2004 the competition was nominated for inclusion in and became part of the national one for the best journalistic work held by the Union of Journalists in Russia. From 1999 to 2008 the number of pieces of work submitted each year grew from 34 to 358. Over those years, 1,236 entries were received altogether. Furthermore, from 2007 the national festival of electronic mass media ‘Intergratsia’, has taken place, Its aim is to encourage national and regional television and radio broadcasters and also those creating content for the Internet to present material in which people with disabilities play a central role alongside other Russians.
Participants in the round table remarked that the main Russian channels had little to say about people with disabilities. The chair of board of the regional charity for disabled people, ‘Strategia’, and producer of the programme ‘Faktor Zhizni’ shown on the TV-Tsentr channel, Vladimir Krupennikov considers that stories should be broadcast about the ‘heroic lives’ of people with disabilities, their potential for work, their creativity and so forth. In his opinion one should not simply talk about their problems; it was important to relate ways of resolving them. Vladimira Petrova, the creator of Factor Zhizni, said the programme was aimed at informing people with disabilities about what state agencies do in relation to them and the promotion of tolerance towards them. Furthermore, the activities of relevant NGOs are mentioned whilst the accessibility of the town centre is monitored.
During the round table there was an award ceremony for socially responsible journalists.