Mahesh Gupthan, chief reporter, Malayala Manorama, Thiruvananthapuram, bagged the first prize for his article ‘They Are Also Our Pet Children’ at the 11th edition of the PII-ICRC Annual Awards. In the photograph category, the first prize went to Himanshu Vyas, chief photographer, Hindustan Times, Jaipur, for his photo-essay on the National Triangular Wheelchair T-20 Cricket Series.
This year’s theme was ‘Living with Disability – Triumphs and Challenges’. The second prize in the Best Article category was awarded to T. Ajeesh, chief sub-editor, Malayala Manorama, Malappuram, Kerala, for his article ‘Life on Wheels’ while Mini Thomas, special correspondent, The Week, Bengaluru, received the third prize for her article ‘Care to Care?’ Raj K. Raj, special photojournalist, Hindustan Times, won the second prize for his photo-essay titled ‘Meet India Gate’s Charlie Mama’ and the third prize went to Kunal P. Patil, special photojournalist, Hindustan Times, for his photo-essay ‘Lost Hands, Not Dreams: India’s Para-swimmer Heading to Rio Olympics’.
A special award was announced for Swagata Yadavar and Prachi Salve for their three-part series ‘Why 12.1 Million Indians with Special Needs Are Illiterate’, which appeared on the IndiaSpend website. The awards were presented by Dr Santosh Babu, chairman and managing director, Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Corporation Ltd, and officer on special duty, Chief Minister’s Special Cell, at a programme held in Chennai.
The jury members this year included Kamlendra Kanwar, senior journalist/columnist and former editor of The Tribune, The Indian Express, and the Ahmedabad edition of The Times of India; S.R. Madhu, former journalist and now writer-editor; and Dr Jaya Shreedhar, adjunct faculty member, Asian College of Journalism, and former special correspondent, Frontline.
Dr Babu said he was sorely disappointed with the treatment the subject of disability received in the media. “There’s so much of negativity. The media should focus on achievements by individuals and organisations, and worthy examples for others to follow,” he said. Kanwar said education and accessibility were two areas that needed to be kept especially in mind when framing policies for persons with disabilities. “There is a lot to celebrate in these people. Don’t ascribe their situation to ‘karma’.”
“The media can provide better coverage by focusing on the problems and achievements of the disabled, as well as the activities of the government, corporates and NGOs for this segment,” said Madhu, adding, “The entries dramatised the willpower and the courage of the disabled. Such coverage will change the perception that the disabled only need our sympathy.”
Dr Jaya Shreedhar wondered whether we had a disabling or an enabling media. “We need an enabling media when we are reporting on disability. Are we blacking out things? What are we not reporting on? We don’t go out and find stories, we wait for stories to come to us. Reporting on the subject is hampered by a lack of data,” she pointed out.
In answer to a question on the language of reporting on persons with disabilities, Jeremy England, head of Regional Delegation, ICRC, New Delhi, said, “Language labels people, and labels can be very painful and damaging. I don’t know of any place in the world where they’ve got the language exactly right.”
The awards, instituted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Press Institute of India (PII), are presented every year. They are designed to promote and recognise the outstanding work of Indian journalists in the field of humanitarian reporting. Entries are required to depict the human suffering caused by disasters and situations of violence, and highlight the extraordinary resilience shown by people in such situations.
Here are some snapshots from the award ceremony (©ICRC):