Vulnerable Groups Need to be Presented in the Media Correctly - UNESCO-Gadjah Mada University Discussion

 Sustainable Living

How do Indonesian mass media report on vulnerable groups, namely women, children and people with disabilities, amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Often, media portray vulnerable groups as people that need mercy, recipients of aid or victims of crime. Such depictions from the media distract from the core of the problems faced by vulnerable groups.

This was the main takeaway from a focus group discussion (FGD) series entitled "Advancing Inclusive Journalism Education in Indonesia: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic", which was held online by the Department of Communication Sciences, of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), in collaboration with UNESCO on 24 and 25 June 2021. The FGD Series involved 24 participants, consisting of five journalism teachers, four journalists, and five experts in related fields. 

Head of the Department of Communication Sciences, Dr Rajiyem, explained that women, children, and people with disabilities still have not received adequate coverage from the Indonesian media, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, research shows, they are one of the groups most affected by the pandemic.

Dr Rajiyem added that the FGD Series aims to provide inputs for preparing an inclusive journalism module for the online training for 60 students from 15 campuses in Indonesia, which will be held from October to November 2021. "UGM hopes that this module can be adopted and utilized by teachers of journalism in Indonesia," said Dr Rajiyem.

Communication and Information Advisor of UNESCO Jakarta, Dr Lim Ming Kuok, said that the inclusive journalism module would later encourage the strengthening and development of journalists' insights and skills in carrying out reporting on vulnerable groups.

During the discussion, it was revealed that most journalists do not have a good understanding of the substance of issues concerning women, children and people with disabilities. As a result, the news from journalists are less 'friendly' and exploits the powerlessness of vulnerable groups rather than defending the rights or providing solutions to problems.

Meanwhile, the teachers in the discussion pointed out that most journalism universities do not have special courses and modules on inclusive journalism. Therefore, the students are not systematically provided with the necessary knowledge and skills needed to write news stories about vulnerable groups. 

The participants also encouraged the use of existing regulations on the protection of women and children and the disability law as a reference for preparing inclusive journalism modules.

Following the FGD Series, the Department of Communication Sciences will continue the programme in a one-week online training for the 60 students. In training, the students will receive modules and assistance to produce multimedia coverage that will be published at the end of the training.

UNESCO is the principal UN agency that promotes freedom of expression, press freedom, and quality journalism education. UNESCO is the Custodian Agency tasked to report and monitor the progress of the Indicator 16.10.2 on access to information of the Sustainable Development Goal 16.

Journalism educators can explore UNESCO Series on Journalism Education , which includes syllabi on Journalism, ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation, handbooks to assist journalists on reporting climate change, including in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, Teaching Journalism for Sustainable Development, a Model curricula for journalism education and Compendium of new syllabi and, in the coming months, a model curricula for Gender, Media and ICTs. 

The model curricula and handbooks are designed to be used as an entire course, or can be used in bespoke ways to suit the media landscape and the needs of journalism students at the local level. They have been developed by experts who are at the cutting edge of journalism education and are presented in a variety of formats and languages.

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