Latin American Media and the Paralympic Games

Published: 27 September 2016

Region: Latin America

paralympics_Rio_2016Media coverage of the Paralympic Games around the world differs. While Channel 4 in the UK continues to lead the way with its well-received and determined TV coverage, Indian media were criticised for the lack of reporting, as well as the US media for not sending enough journalists to Rio this year to cover the Paralympic Games. But how the media in Brazil and some other countries in Latin American covered the Paralympics, the international competition for disabled athletes that follows the Olympics?

Instead of focusing in the determination of athletes around the world in the Paralympic Games, some Latin American media as well as Brazilian media have focused in reporting only on their own winners. Additionally, some media have featured an emotional reporting of athletes with disabilities instead of spotlighting their achievements and efforts. Sensationalism over accuracy has been the main problem of the Paralympics media coverage.

Furthermore, VOGUE Brazil decided to show two actors instead of two real Paralympic athletes. The magazine used Photoshop so that actors can appear as being people with disabilities when in fact, they are not. VOGUE Brazil said that the actors Cleo Pires and Paulinho Vilhena, ambassadors of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee represented the athletes Bruna Alexandre, table tennis player and Renato Leite, sitting volleyball player. The question of ethics and professionalism of the Vogue Brazil remains, as well as lack of inclusion of athletes with disabilities even during the Paralympic Games.

Also, some Latin American media limited the presence of the Paralympics to their sports sections rather than giving it the same priority given to the Olympic Games. This matter has proved that the community of disabled athletes has still a long way to go to be presented equally in the media.

For instance, when Canadian women’s basketball player Jamey Jewells was celebrating the victory against China for 63-52, La Nacion online wrote an article on “the most emotional picture of the Paralympics “portraying her as Adam Lancia’s wife and not saying that she was part of the female basketball team that just won.

However, the Mexican publication 24 horas published a report on the inequality of the payments to Olympic and Paralympic athletes. “For example, Spain paid its athletes with the gold medal around 105 thousand dollars. However, Paralympic athletes in the same country will receive three times less.“

According to a survey in Scope (2014) about “two thirds of the British public feel uncomfortable talking to people with disabilities” and “over a third tend to think of people with disabilities as not as productive as everyone else”.

The coverage of events like the Paralympics is very important for people with disabilities, as a poll in Scope’s blog showed “82% of people with disabilities believe the Paralympics make them more visible in wider society” but also, nearly “80% of people with disabilities say there has been no change in the way people act towards them”.