NUJ Disabled Members’ Council endorses UN criticism of UK human rights failures

  • 25 Apr 2024

The council responds to the "damning" UN Committee's rights of disabled people report

The NUJ Disabled Members’ Council has supported calls for the UK government to take action to address human rights violations against disabled people.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People published a damning report  on April 24 outlining the retrogression of disabled people’s rights in the UK. The report concluded that the UK government “has failed to take all appropriate measures to address grave and systematic violations of the human rights of persons with disabilities and has failed to eliminate the root causes of inequality and discrimination”. The report states:

“There is a pervasive framework and rhetoric that devalues disabled people and undermines their human dignity. Reforms within social welfare benefits are premised on a notion that disabled people are undeserving and wilfully avoiding employment (“skiving off”) and defrauding the system. This has resulted in hate speech and hostility towards disabled people.”

Natasha Hirst, president National Union of Journalists, said:

“There has never been a more important time for journalists and the wider media industry to tackle harmful negative rhetoric against disabled people. I call on journalists to take time to understand the concerns raised by the UN Committee and scrutinise why the government is so keen to dismiss their failure to uphold disabled people’s human rights. 

"Deaf and disabled people’s organisations have proved the harm caused by changes to the social security system and cuts to services, yet the UK government is intent on pushing this even further. Disabled people’s voices need to be heard, and not drowned out and demonised by people who have never experienced the sharp end of the social security system. As journalists, we should report ethically to hold power to account, and not be complicit in the scapegoating of disabled people.”

Ann Galpin, chair of the NUJ Disabled Members’ Council and co-chair of TUC Disabled Workers' Committee, said:

“We commend the disabled activists and journalists who have worked so hard to expose the horrific injustices and hardship experienced by deaf and disabled people as a direct result of government cuts. We urge the Government to listen to these criticisms, and work in co-production with disabled people and our organisations on inclusive solutions that support disabled people to participate fully in society, instead of pushing ahead with further changes that will cause more harm.”

Professor Chris Frost, chair of the NUJ Ethics Council, said:

"Several recent appalling cases of reporting on disabled people or issues concerning their welfare have exposed the extent of discriminatory reporting, particularly in our national press. This has to end and reporting needs to be done fairly and without attempts to demonise disabled people."

Ellen Clifford, UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Coalition Co-ordinator, said: “The government's attitude towards the UN special inquiry is evidence that their treatment of Deaf and Disabled people is wilful and calculated. This is reflected in the damning findings of the report. The limitations of the inquiry process are that there are just too many deliberate rights violations to include in one report. However, the report validates the experiences of Deaf and Disabled people across the UK and is a much-needed counter to government rhetoric claiming they are ‘protecting the most vulnerable’ when they are doing the exact opposite.”

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